An experimental study of wall shear stress in an accelerating flow of water in a pipe ramping between two steady turbulent flows has been undertaken in a large-scale experimental facility. Ensemble averaged mean and r.m.s. of the turbulent fluctuations of wall shear stresses have been derived from hot-film measurements from many repeated runs. The initial Reynolds number and the acceleration rate were varied systematically to give values of a non-dimensional acceleration parameter k ranging from 0.16 to 14. The wall shear stress has been shown to follow a three-stage development. Stage 1 is associated with a period of minimal turbulence response; the measured turbulent wall shear stress remains largely unchanged except for a very slow increase which is readily associated with the stretching of existing turbulent eddies as a result of flow acceleration. In this condition of nearly 'frozen' turbulence, the unsteady wall shear stress is driven primarily by flow inertia, initially increasing rapidly and overshooting the pseudo-steady value, but then increasing more slowly and eventually falling below the pseudo-steady value. This variation is predicted by an analytical expression derived from a laminar flow formulation. The start of Stage 2 is marked by the generation of new turbulence causing both the mean and turbulent wall shear stress to increase rapidly, although there is a clear offset between the responses of these two quantities. The turbulent wall shear, reflecting local turbulent activities near the wall, responds first and the mean wall shear, reflecting conditions across the entire flow field, responds somewhat later. In Stage 3, the wall shear stress exhibits a quasi-steady variation. The duration of the initial period of nearly frozen turbulence response close to the wall increases with decreasing initial Reynolds number and with increasing acceleration. The latter is in contrast to the response of turbulence in the core of the flow, which previous measurements have shown to be independent of the rate of acceleration.