With one of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedrals in danger of collapse when its 11th century foundations began to sink into the peat bed on which they rested, the authorities in charge of Winchester Cathedral, in Hampshire England, began an ambitious reconstruction programme to underpin the walls and foundations.
Faced with the problem of heavy water seepage that quickly flooded the 7-metre-deep pits dug beneath the Cathedral’s walls, the engineer in charge of the undertaking called on the services of Siebe, Gorman & Co., who assigned their chief diver, William Walker, to the project.
From 1906 until the job’s completion in 1911, the former Royal Navy diver worked in complete darkness for six hours a day, moving and placing an estimated 25,800 bags of concrete, 114,900 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks.
In 1964, in recognition of his singular efforts in successfully saving the Cathedral, a statuette of William Walker in his diving dress was unveiled and now stands behind the Cathedral’s high altar almost opposite that of Joan of Arc.
The above snippet first appeared in the HDS-Asia FaceBook page in September 2019