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#IfWallsCouldTalk Part 9: People Behind the Stones

June 8, 2018

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William Walker, Deep Sea Diver


Worked on the cathedral from 1906-1911

In the early 1900s, large cracks appeared in the cathedral walls, due to the fact that the old wooden foundations were rotting away. Many ordinary workmen tried to fix the problem, but the trenches that were dug to access the foundations were so deep that they quickly filled up with water. The idea was suggested to bring in a deep-sea diver, and experienced diver William Walker was called in from Portsmouth dockyard. For almost six years, Walker worked on the foundations, excavating trenches and filling the cracks with concrete. The work was hard, he had to work in total darkness due to the sediment in the water and he had to wear a heavy diving suit all day.  Once he had finished, it was estimated that the team of 150 workers that Walker was part of had placed 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks on the foundations. Through Walker and his team’s hard work and dedication, the cathedral was saved.

Obviously, you can’t see Walker’s work with the naked eye, as it is several metres underground, but you can see that the cathedral is as strong and solid as ever, with no danger of the foundations collapsing any time soon. There is a statue of Walker holding his helmet at the far end of the cathedral, and there is even a pub named after him around the corner!













William Wynford, Master Mason

Active: 1360-1405

Worked on the Cathedral during the 1390s

William Wynford was a master mason, who worked on many imposing buildings in his time, such as Windsor Castle and Winchester College. During his time working at Windsor Castle, he met William Wykham, who would later become Bishop of Winchester. The relationship they formed led Wynford to be asked to design the remodelling of the nave in Winchester Cathedral.

Rather than demolishing the building, Wynford decided to strip out the interior and build on top of it. He recreated the nave in the gothic style that was popular at the time, the windows were broadened, decorative bosses were added and a magnificent vaulted ceiling was created. Wynford is also credited with the designing of William Wykham’s chantry chapel, which mirrors much of the decorative style seen in the nave.

Much of William Wynford’s work can be seen around the cathedral today. You only have to walk down the nave to find it! View the gorgeous windows that surround the nave, look up to see the soaring vaulted ceiling, and try and find William Wykham’s chantry chapel in the southern aisle.











Bishop Walkelin

Bishop Walkelin

Died: 1093

Bishop of Winchester 1070-1093

When the Normans invaded in 1066, William the Conqueror appointed Walkelin as Bishop of Winchester. Walkelin began work on building a new cathedral soon after his appointment as bishop, and the work he did on the building can still be seen today. Although much of the 11th century building has been remodelled over the centuries, the crypt and transepts are still standing and make up the oldest part of the cathedral.

The materials used to create Bishop Walkelin’s cathedral came from a variety of locations. William I told Walkelin that he could take as much timber as he could get in four days from the Forest of Hempage Wood to build beams and scaffolds. The King was shocked later to find that the Bishop had gathered an enormous troop of carpenters and cut down the entire forest! Walkelin was also allowed to take some stone from the Isle of Wight, and some of the stone used was also reused from Old and New Minsters, the Anglo Saxon churches that originally stood on the site.

The crypt and transepts are an excellent way to see what the cathedral would have looked like when Walkelin originally built it. It was a lot simpler, with very few decorations. The crypt has vaulted ceilings, but they are not as flamboyant as the ceiling in the nave, which was added over 200 years later. You can still see these parts of the cathedral and imagine how it would have looked almost one thousand years ago.