Diver who saved a cathedral

Posted: 11/09/2011 in all marine news

Jim Eagles –

The greatest hero in the proud history of Winchester, for 400 years the capital of England, could well be a walrus-moustached, pipe-smoking deep-sea diver called William Walker.

That may seem strange because Winchester is many miles from the sea and, over the centuries, it has been home to countless outstanding figures, from Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror to Jane Austen and John Keats.

But Walker has been honoured with a plaque inside the magnificent Winchester Cathedral, a statue outside it – showing a burly, smiling figure in an old-fashion diver’s helmet – and a nearby pub named after him.

Why, you ask ? Go on one of Winchester Tourism’s delightful walking tours of the city and the clues are all around.

For instance, as we strolled down the Weir Walk along the banks of the sparkling River Itchen, our guide, Clare Dixon, explained that the river once flowed about 500m to the west.

The Romans, who transformed the place from an Iron Age fort to a bustling market town, changed its course to create more room for development. But they also created a future problem.

The Romans protected their new town with a massive wall, a small section of which we were able to view through a padlocked metal gate alongside the path.

They also built a stone fort, subsequently incorporated into a Norman castle, which played a central role in battles for the throne, until Oliver Cromwell ordered its demolition in 1649.

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