|1253757. Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:27 pm
|Was post 63451 ever used in an episode?
I went to Winchester a few weeks ago and attended the guided tour inside Winchester Cathedral. The tour guide impressed upon us how William Walker was a hero to the residents of Winchester in saving the near 1000 year old building. When I stepped inside the cathedral, I couldnít help but feel amazed at first by how big it is, then how old it is, and eventually wondering how on earth did they built it in 14 years? How did they get the stones from the Isle of Wight? With a boat apparently. Itís extraordinary that we had the technology and workmanship to keep such a massive building standing for so many years, until it started cracking.
The builders dug holes around the cathedral to discover that it was sinking into the peat and to make matters worse, the excavation holes were filling with water. William Walker, professional diver, was the solution.
Imagine going down into a hole wearing a 200lb diving suit, pulling you deeper. The inky, black water is lapping at your front eye-piece, but you keep descending into the depths. Itís cold, thereís no light, and the pressure of the water is pressing down all around your diving suit, hugging you snugly. The cathedral could collapse right now. Your hands follow the wall because you canít see where youíre going. It feels familiar. You arenít wearing gloves. You walk slowly down the tunnel, like last time, until you feel the wall of peat in front of you.
There is 6 metres of earth above your head and sitting on top of it is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. You try to dig, but the rotted beech logs and compacted peat is just too hard. You take out your hammer and pick, and start breaking the wall. Slowly and deliberately. If it was possible, the water is darker and murkier than before. You can see even less. Maybe this time you won't find an old coffin, like the other time.
Sweat trickles down your face from exertion and you canít wipe it away. It's only sweat, you hope. You fill the bucket with peat, reach for the rope, and tug at it. The water swirls around you as your colleagues pull the bucket up to the surface. Youíre grateful that theyíre still pumping air into your suit.*
William Walker would stack bags of dry mix concrete in the tunnels, slash open each bag, and let them set and cure over 24 hours. Water would then be pumped out of the tunnel and the other labourers would carry out the rest of the maintenance. The process repeats. In the weekend Walker would cycle 70 miles back home to South Norwood. This was his routine for over 5 years, from April 1906 to September 1911. Further repairs continued afterwards.
St. Swithun is the patron saint of Winchester Cathedral so it was apt that a thanksgiving service was held in the cathedral on St. Swithunís Day, 15th July 1912. King George V and Queen Mary were present for the celebration. Some time later, William Walker was honoured as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order.
Walker died in 1918 from Spanish flu, aged 49. A small statue of him can be found at the back of the cathedral near where he worked, deep underground. In some ways, what was more incredible about William Walker was that he fathered 12 children in his lifetime, several in the years when in was diving under Winchester Cathedral.
I think a fun question to tie this topic together could be something like:
For peatís sake! Why can't it be more concrete?
*I admit to taking some artistic liberties with this one. I swear I meant to write a couple of sentences. Then I got carried away. >_<