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1984: York Minster ablaze
The devastating fire at York Minster took hold in the early hours of the morning of 9 July 1984.

Some attributed the cause of the blaze to divine retribution - or even a UFO. Yorkshire Fire Brigade concluded it was more likely to have been a lightning strike.

However it was sparked, the fire caused massive damage to the 13th century cathedral, destroying the roof of the South Transept and shattering the famous rose window into thousands of pieces.

It took four years to complete the repairs - which included bosses in the South Transept vaulting designed by winners of a competition run by the BBC children's programme, Blue Peter.

Memories of the fire:

I was a Tenor Songman in York Minster Choir from 1983-1985 and lived in a room at No. 7 Precentor's Court - a beautiful cobbled street which gave me a stunning view of the west face of the Minster.

At around 3am I was woken by my choir colleague, Philip Daggett, banging on my door. When I opened it he shouted, "John, get downstairs; the Minster's on fire!"

At first I thought this was one of Phil's pranks since we'd both spent the evening drinking in the choir local, the Hole-in-the-Wall pub on High Petergate. But when I went outside and saw the surreal sight of the bright orange glow enveloping the south transept, time seemed to stand still. My eyes simply couldn't process what I was looking at.

I was also choir music librarian at the time and when I was given access to the Minster at 8.30am the next morning, the entire floor of the building was sitting in three inches of water.

Ironically the greatest damage to the choir music library, which was located in the south choir aisle adjoining the South Transept, was from water, not fire and smoke.

The fire brigade took the decision to collapse the South Transept roof by pouring tens of thousands of gallons of water onto it. By doing this, they saved the rest of the Minster since the flames from the transept were already curling into the tower space, threatening the whole building.
John Beaumont, London UK

Aged 13, I was a runner up in the competition back in 1984 to design new bosses for the roof and still treasure the piece of (slightly singed) wood from the damaged roof sent as my prize.
Iain Duthie, UK

I moved to Yorkshire only days after the fire, and one of my first trips was to the York Minister.

The cellar was totally dedicated to the restoration and I remember the Great Rose Window was laid out and on display and it was the closest anyone had got to it for centuries.

It was (and still is) very beautiful, and I remember thinking the fire couldn't have been all bad if it allowed people to get a closer look at the details of the window.

Before this, it had been set very high up in a wall.
Michelle, UK

Apart from a veiled reference to "divine retribution", you seem to have entirely omitted the fact that the fire took place immediately after the controversial and much disputed ordination of Dr David Jenkins, elevated to such high office in the Church of England despite his views that undermined the very foundations of the Christian faith.

Dismissing the possibility of divine retribution by suggesting it was rather an unfortunate lightning strike, you evidently do not know the Scriptures, which state "See how [God] scatters his lightning about him... This is the way he governs the nations" (The Bible, Job 36:30-31).
Jonathan Smith, UK

My wife and I lived in York at that time and clearly remember seeing a flash of lightning and waiting, counting for the thunder, but it never came. It was only the next morning that we learnt of the devastating fire at the Minster. We immediately connected the two events in our minds, but it is impossible to say that they were connected.
Mic, UK

I was nine years old and attended York College School which is at the far side of the Cathedral. We loved it - we had to have the whole week off school because the site was too dangerous!
P, UK

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Picture of the blaze courtesy of York Minster
The fire started in the early hours of the morning


Restoring the roof: Three Blue Peter winners share their memories

Damage after the fire
"This part of the Minster is closed"
Pic courtesy of John Beaumont
Damage to York Minster
Workmen stare in disbelief at the damage. Pic courtesy of John Beaumont

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