a tribute to William Walker in Winchester Cathedral by quietpurplehaze

a tribute to William Walker in Winchester Cathedral

In the early 1900s, large cracks began to appear in Winchester Cathedral’s massive walls and vaulted ceilings. Some were wide enough for owls to roost in and chunks of stone were falling to the ground.

Winchester lies in a valley of the River Itchen, and the Cathedral sits on peaty soil with a high underlying water table.

Thomas Jackson, the architect brought in to advise, decided to deal with the subsidence by underpinning the building’s medieval south and east walls with modern new foundations.

Jackson planned to dig narrow trenches underneath the walls of the building and fill them with concrete. These would need to reach 13 feet below the water table to be effective. However, as fast as the workmen dug, water flooded into their trenches. A steam pump was no help.

The project’s engineer, Francis Fox, had the idea of using a deep-sea diver to do the work. So William Walker, an experienced diver working at Portsmouth dockyard, was called in.

From 1906, he laboured under water below the Cathedral for six hours a day at depths up to 20 ft. He worked in total darkness, using his bare hands to feel his way through the cloudy, muddy water.

His huge, heavy diving suit took a long time to put on. So when he stopped for lunch, he just used to take off his helmet. He sometimes smoked his pipe, which he thought would kill off any germs.

It took him six years to excavate the flooded trenches and fill them with bags of concrete. Then all the groundwater was pumped out and the subsiding walls were safely underpinned by bricklayers

By 1911, the foundations were packed with an estimated 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks. A line of imposing buttresses was added to the south side of the cathedral, making the building safe at last.

A special service of thanksgiving was held on St Swithun’s Day 1912, and William Walker was presented to George V and Queen Mary. He was later made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO).

Sadly, he died aged just 49 during the great Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

(info from the Cathedral website.)
Wow. He certainly deserved his medal .Great to hear about him and his wonderful work on the Cathedral and you have taken a super shot of his diving helmet.
January 24th, 2015  
What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it. The diving helmet is so appropriate as a memorial. Really the entire catherdral is his monument.
January 24th, 2015  
I remember seeing a TV programme about William Walker a few years. He was an amazing guy. Great shot of his diving helmet - fav
January 24th, 2015  
Great story! Love seeing this and learning about the cathedral.
January 24th, 2015  
Wow what a great story and history! thanks for sharing!
January 24th, 2015  
What a labour of love! Wonderful man. Fascinating history, Hazel.
January 24th, 2015  
Wow, what an interesting shot and a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing, Hazel.
January 24th, 2015  
Great capture and history.
January 24th, 2015  
Fantastic picture.
January 24th, 2015  
Fascinating! Great picture!
January 24th, 2015  
A great capture and always nice to learn the history behind it too.
January 24th, 2015  
Interesting story and a great picture.
January 24th, 2015  
A complete hero Hazel! Fancy donning that heavy outfit & doing all that work & then having a smoke of his pipe!! Too pearly a death for this great chap!
January 24th, 2015  
bep
Interesting story. Thanks for sharing Hazel.
January 24th, 2015  
Great story Hazel. Must have been very claustrophobic work, and especially so as it went on for so many years!
January 24th, 2015  
Thank you for writing this interesting story. Great shot of this historical helm.
January 24th, 2015  
Fantastic story and great shot of the diving helmet. I thought I had neck and head problems I bet he suffered terribly wearing this. Makes my neck ache just looking at this. ha ha.
January 24th, 2015  
Great shot and interesting story to go with it!!!
January 25th, 2015  
WOW...what a wonderful bit of history. Fascinating Hazel. And love the the helmet from the diving suit. What an ordeal.
January 25th, 2015  
Thank you for sharing the history of the Cathedral. It was interesting, and I love your image. FAV
January 25th, 2015  
Great pic, and what a fascinating story!
January 25th, 2015  
Good shot
January 25th, 2015  
Absolutely super and very interesting.
January 28th, 2015  
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