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You are in: North Yorkshire > History > York Minster > York Minster fire - what happened?

York Minster's South Transept

York Minster fire - what happened?

Early in the morning of 9th July 1984 the alarm was raised that York Minster was on fire. It took around 150 fire fighters from across North Yorkshire two hours to bring the blaze under control.

Exactly what started the fire in York Minster's South Transept isn't known for sure.

Many explanations have been put forward from UFOs to divine intervention following the installation of controversial clergyman the Rt Revt David Jenkins as Bishop of Durham.

Lightning over the Yorkshire Wolds

But for those seeking a more rational worldly explanation, it's believed the cathedral was struck by lightning shortly after midnight.

The 8th of July 1984 had been a balmy summer day. That night many remember watching spectacular lightning storms light the sky above York.

Bob Littlewood, Superintendent of works at the time, believes the lightning earthed through an electrical panel in the roof void, starting the fire.

The fire alarm wasn't activated immediately, possibly as a result of electrical damage to the system, although the fire detection system was criticised for being inadequate.

By the time Ron Hunter, the on duty Minster Policeman discovered the fire, York's cathedral was well alight.

Because the exterior of the roof was effectively sealed with lead and the fire was well established at the only entrance to the roof void, it was impossible to tackle the fire effectively.

The large quantities of tinder dry oak in the roof burned well, and hot. A great deal of stonework was seriously damaged, as was the famous Rose Window. It's known the Rose Window itself reached temperatures of around 450 degrees centigrade.

The roof finally collapsed at around 4am. It was then relatively easy for the fire fighters to deal with the burning timbers on the floor

last updated: 26/06/2009 at 14:04
created: 04/10/2005

You are in: North Yorkshire > History > York Minster > York Minster fire - what happened?

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