Tucked into the dark recesses of the south-east corner of Winchester cathedral is an 18inch-high statue. Not of a saint, a bishop or a king, but of a moustachioed man in a diving suit holding his bulbous helmet before him. He’s ‘Diver Bill’, the plucky frogman who singlehandedly saved the cathedral from collapse at the start of the 20th Century.
Between 1906 and 19011 William Walker swam, alone in the darkness, for six hours a day, below the cathedral’s wobbly foundations, packing the flooded space with bags of concrete so the groundwater could be pumped out and the subsiding walls shored up. He paused only to eat lunch and to smoke his pipe.
You can join a guided tour of Winchester Cathedral to see Bill and the church’s countless other treasures from Monday to Saturday, on the hour from 10.00-15.00.
Image © amandabhslater