Headstones with unusual stories to tell: The diver who saved a cathedral
William Walker was a deep-sea diver who, in 1905, was employed to help repair the foundations of Winchester Cathedral.
Large cracks had appeared in the cathedral's walls and vaulted ceilings, some of which were wide enough for owls to roost in.
Because Winchester has a high underlying water table and the cathedral is built on peaty soil, trenches dug below filled with water before any reinforcing work could be done.
So Walker, who usually worked at Portsmouth dockyard, was recruited.
A tunnel was excavated beneath the building and for six years he spent nearly six hours a day underwater, in darkness, replacing and shoring up the foundations with his bare hands. He worked entirely by touch. Eventually he propped the cathedral up with 900,000 bricks, 114,900 concrete blocks and 25,800 bags of cement.
Because it took him so long to put on and take off his heavy diving suit, when he stopped for a break he would just take off his helmet in order to eat his lunch and smoke his pipe.
As if that was not enough effort, each weekend he cycled 150 miles - home to Croydon, south London, before returning to work on Monday.
He died aged 49 during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. His grave, at Beckenham Cemetery in Bromley, south-east London, bears the words: "The diver who with his own hands saved Winchester Cathedral."
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