From the archive: All of the articles below first appeared in the Evening Press on February 28, 1997, following the blaze at Park Grove School in the early hours of that day.

The bells of York Minster chimed midnight.

In the narrow streets below, a twist of smoke blowing across the rooftops gave only the slightest hint that one of York's oldest schools was about to be destroyed.

By the time dawn broke today Park Grove County School lay gutted.

Materials lining the wall cavities were still on fire almost 12 hours after firefighters first arrived at the scene.

At least three fire engines remained at the school today to continue the damping down operation.

The blaze had swept through the building causing the roof to collapse and leaving hundreds of thousands of pounds damage in its wake.

More than 100 firefighters, manning 23 appliances from across North Yorkshire, tackled the blaze, believed to be the biggest since the Minster was engulfed in 1984. They were unable to stop the fire spreading as strong winds fanned the flames.

Dozens of residents living nearby were warned to prepare to evacuate their homes if the smoke became too dense.

Firefighters arrived to discover the building already well ablaze with flames rolling along under the ground-floor roof.

The first teams on the scene entered the building but were later ordered to withdraw as it was feared the roof would collapse.

Children from the school are to attend nearby Queen Anne School from Tuesday.

Parents were asked to keep their children at home today and Monday and educational social workers, who are trained counsellors, have been made available to talk to distressed parents, children and teachers.

City of York Council structural engineers were liaising with fire investigation officers today but said it was too early to say how the fire started.

Distressed headmaster Andrew alverley was one of the first on the scene, helping firefighters with vital information about the 226-pupil school, a listed building in The Groves.

The school employs 15 staff plus a further 25 at the City of York Council's staff development centre housed there.

Council chief executive David Clark was at the scene within minutes and by 2am today council education chief Mike Peters had opened up the Education Department in George Hudson Street where staff began contacting families of pupils attending the school.

A meeting was held at the Grange Hotel, Bootham, to advise school staff on arrangements. The meeting was very emotional and all staff were said to be too upset to talk about the fire.

As flames lit up the skyline during the blaze, scores of residents watched helplessly amid thick clouds of smoke and sparks.

Steve Parrott, of Penleys Grove Street, made a 999 call but was reassured that firefighters were already on their way.

He said: "I thought it was my street which had gone up in flames. I came around the corner and it was incredible, the whole sky was glowing."

Park Grove resident and former school pupil Gary Archer said: "I was worried for my children, there was smoke getting into the house everywhere.

"I got a big shock when I looked out of the window and saw these huge flames shooting out of the roof.

"But it's the children I feel sorry for, they'll be devastated."

York Press:

PARENTS and children at Park Grove Primary woke today to hear their school had been gutted by fire and gathered on the pavement across the road watching the fire fighters at work.

"Rhodri is really annoyed about his pencil case," said his little sister Eleri.

Rhodri nodded agreement: "It had loads of good stuff in it. We have got all our work in there and we have not had chance to take it home.

"We have worked very hard and I just can't believe it."

With a disbelieving look, Marysia Koc viewed the devastation.

"My six-year-old daughter Amy is completely devastated. She's really worried about all her things, her books and the stuff in her tray.

"Oh God. I'm grieving," said Moyra Jones, "I have four children. Two are still in school and two have left, I came down to see it because I could not take in the information I had heard and I thought I needed to see all that has happened."

Chris Rathmell and his son David, 10, were taking photos of the school David will not be going back to for some time.

Chris said: "My wife works at the playgroup and we are involved in the PTA and that makes you realise the fundraising that goes into the school.

"Our feelings are obvious - concern about where the children are going to go and shock and amazement."

Amanda Goodey was horrified at what had happened to the school: "All my three children have been here, and Hannah, 11, is still here.

"It is a wonderful school with lovely teachers and lovely children. I'm just so shocked."

Evening Press journalist Julian Cole, whose son attends the school, writes:

Evening Press journalist JULIAN COLE, whose sons attend Park Grove, writes of his feelings at the terrible news

TO stand in Lowther Street, York, this morning and look across the playing field to Park Grove School is a devastating experience.

The roof is gone and a few flames still flicker. No one yet knows when the children will be able to return to school.

For Andrew Calverley, the head teacher, this must be a morning too awful to imagine. For my eight-year-old son, the news sent him into sobs. School should be a special, sacred place to a young child, and for the school to be so badly damaged by fire is nothing short of appalling.

And Park Grove is a special school, a thriving, go-ahead inner city school which has tried to look ahead of its difficulties and provide opportunities for all of its children.

On Wednesday night Mr alverley told me about one of his ambitious plans for the school. He has been setting up e-mail links with schools around the world, in New Zealand and South Africa.

The idea is for the children to be able to talk over the Internetto other children about their lives. This is typical of the school and the man, always looking ahead and never standing still.

I feel terribly for Mr Calverley on this awful morning. And for my two boys who attend the school. And for my little girl who won't be able to go to playgroup.

A school is a focal point in the community, the meeting point of so many lives. What happened last night to Park Grove School has pierced the heart of The Groves.

York Press:

THE cost of the devastation caused by the blaze at Park Grove County Primary School blaze is likely to be around £5 million

The fire has sent shock waves running through the City of York Council which owns and runs the property

As a listed Victorian building, the authority now has a duty to restore the property to its original state if possible

And although the school was fully insured, the blaze is likely to give the cash-strapped authority countless logistical and financial nightmares in the short term

As firefighters fought to control the blaze in the middle of the night, education director Mike Peters, headmaster Andrew alverley and council chief executive David Clark began working on a plan to cope with the disaster

In addition to looking after an estimated 200 pupils, the school is also home to an extensive staff development support unit

During the next few days education officials face the challenge of setting up alternative arrangements for these services

Today, Mike Peters was back at the school as parents and pupils arrived, spreading the news that the children would be temporarily transferred to Queen Anne School, Bootham

But today the authority said it was confident of being able to cope with the problems posed by the fire. A council spokesperson said: "To replace a school like this could cost up to £2.5 million. A similar amount would be needed to be spent on the development centre

"At this stage it is not known what the level of damage will be but early indications are that it will be extensive

"The aim is that education will be disrupted as little as possible. The authority has insurance that provides cover for events such as this."

She said it had been arranged for a security firm to have a 24-hour presence at the school

"Fencing will be put up around it and an engineer has already visited the site," she said

"The staff development centre will, in the short term, be aiming to relocate to Burnholme Community College."

Last night's blaze ironically started just hours after councillors met at the Guildhall to finalise the authority's budget for 1997/98.

Around £5.9 million worth of savings had to be made but this latest blow could put even more pressure on council resources in the short term.

York Press:

FORMER pupils of fire-ravaged Park Grove have spoken of their sadness following last night's blaze

David Worley, 42, of Poppleton Road, was at the secondary school there in the 1960s and remembers his schooldays fondly

He said: "It was a great school but it was also a really tough school

"When I got there it got a lot better and it was a great sporting school. We won everything at football despite a lack of facilities. We didn't even have our own football pitch

"I had three brothers who went there before me so our links go back a few generations

"You hated your schooldays but it is sad to see it now when you remember what went on there."

Andrew Nicholson, 46, a joiner from Green Lane, Acomb, also attended the school in the 1960s

He said: "You knew where you stood with the teachers and if you did something wrong you got caned

"But it was quite a happy school and we had a very good rugby team.

York Press:

THE thick fortress walls of Park Grove County school looked indestructible silhouetted against the night sky

From deep within, a steady stream of black smoke climbed into the air, dwarfed by the school's imposing walls

One hour later the school looked shrunken, cowering beneath the towering mass of flame bursting from its roof

And from the edge of the playground, a dazed community looked on, united by the catastrophe unfolding before their eyes

A red stream of fire engines flooded into the car park. Hoses unfurled, snaking across the streets, under fences, around walls - pumping solid jets of water into the inferno's gaping mouth

The crowd of passers by swelled, expressions frozen in bewilderment as the flames leapt higher and higher

Among the bobbing yellow hats of the firefighters, a tall figure dashed, shouting at the scene in front of him

The headmaster Andrew Calverley had arrived in time to witness the destruction of his school

On one side of the building a thick curtain of smoke fell away to reveal a furnace churning behind blind and gaping window frames

Above, turntable cranes swung into the flames, aiming tiny jets into the heart of the blaze

A shower of sparks erupted as the roof collapsed deep into the depths of the building. Orange fireflies floated down to the streets, cascading among the spectators

More firefighters rushed in, slamming ladders at side windows to get closer to the blaze

But the fortress walls pushed them back, denying them access to the centre of the fire

Wearily the audience began to drift back to their beds, closing doors to the reflection of the orange glow and the blinking blue lights

And as the crews battled on, slowly the fire subsided, until all that remained was a handful of flames licking at the charred rafters

Through ugly holes which once were windows, can be glimpsed a clock - its hands stopped at just after midnight

Beside it, on the wall, a charred child's picture. Colour peeking out from beneath the new layer of soot.

York Press:

Today's blaze is already being seen as the worst to blight York since citizens awoke one July morning to find the South Transept of the Minster standing open to the skies

The fire which gutted Park Grove Primary School was smaller than the Minster blaze, but it will be remembered alongside some of the worst in York's history

In March 1994 a blaze ripped through a former bean store at the Nestle plant in Haxby Road. The fire sent burning timbers crashing 120ft to the ground, although no one was injured

September 1994 saw Harrogate and York city on alert after a series of firebombs which blasted the contents of five shops. The bombs which targeted branches of Boots and a gun shop, were believed to be the work of extremists

Joseph Rowntree School in New Earswick was hit by fire in April 1993 when a blaze which gutted several classrooms caused £50,000-worth of damage

In March 1992 a fire destroyed Joseph's Nursery, Rawcliffe Lane, Clifton. Thatched roofs were blamed for fuelling the flames

The biggest blaze to hit the County following the Minster fire swept through Harrogate Conference centre in July 1990, destroying an entire exhibition

July 1984 will always be remembered as the month which nearly saw the destruction of York Minster after flames tore through the roof of the south transept. The fire was blamed on, among other things, the wrath of God

In 1933 Leek and Thorpe's Coney Street store was reduced to rubble by the ravages of fire

Bootham School was completely destroyed in a blaze in 1899. The present school was built on the site of the fire.