Winchester Cathedral held a special memorial service and has opened a month long exhibition about the work of diver William Walker who saved the foundations of the cathedral from subsidence in the early 1900s.
The service and exhibition at the cathedral marks the centenary of Walker’s death in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and celebrates his six years of work to save the historic structure.
Timber piled foundations started to fail at the start of the 20th century and cracks appeared in the stonework. Some cracks were wide enough that owls started to roost in them and blocks of stone also fell from the structure.
Early efforts by architect Thomas Jackson to underpin the cathedral using 4m deep trenches dug from the surface failed when pumping failed to keep the trenches dry enough for concrete to be poured.
Project engineer Francis Fox proposed using divers to place the concrete and Walker was recruited from Portsmouth Dockyard to undertake the task.
High groundwater levels within the peat-bearing ground meant that deep sea diver Walker worked under water placing individual bags of concrete into 6m deep hand dug excavations to create a cut off wall around the cathedral.
It took Walker six years to complete the wall, after which the groundwater was pumped out and the walls were underpinned by bricklayers.
Winchester Cathedral has said that 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks were used to complete the underpinning work.
A special service of thanksgiving was held in 1912 to mark the saving of the cathedral and Walker was presented to George V and Queen Mary and he was later made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order.
Walker died, aged 49, during the Spanish Flu epidemic and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery.
The exhibition commemorating Walker’s work with a special display of his belongings, artworks and pictures relating to him is open until 31 October.