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St Martin-le-Grand Church rises from the ashes
IT is almost 70 years since Mr Hitler's bombs fell on York, in what has become known as the Baedeker raid. During that awful night of April 28/29, 1942, more than 70 civilian residents of the city were killed – 14 of them children – and hundreds more were injured.
The city itself suffered enormous damage too – not least the Guildhall and nearby St Martin-le-Grand Church in Coney Street.
Local and national newspaper headlines the following morning sought to strike a defiant note. “The spirit of blitzed York stands very high,” declared one. A staff reporter for the Yorkshire Observer wrote of “the beautiful spires of the undamaged Minster against a blue sky” and of a “tired-looking girl serving buns and bread over a confectionery counter – bombed out of her home six hours before.”
It is a night that has lived long in York’s memory.
Parts of the city have never been the same again: St Martin-le-Grand church among them. The church was reconstructed, using sections of wall that had been left standing. Our remarkable series of pictures today all come from The Press's archives: and they show the slow process of the creation of the church as we know it today.
Our main photo dates from April 1962 – almost 20 years to the day after the bombs fell. It shows a new bell – recast from those damaged in the raid – being tested at the church by two workmen, Mr M McCulloch and Mr W Ward. “It weighs half a ton, and now hangs in the tower of the church, now being transformed into a garden of rest,” says the caption.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we have the Garden of Rest itself – “nearing completion”, the caption says, in November 1964.
In May 1966 the church clock, weighing a quarter of a ton, was hoisted into position by a crane. And in August that year, stained glass craftsman Peter Gibson – since made a Freeman of York – was photographed checking a 600-year-old stained glass window which had been in safekeeping since the war. “Its position will now be in the north wall instead of in the west wall,” notes the caption.
By 1968, a new organ was being installed – a gift from the German Government and the German evangelical church as a “token of reconciliation”.
Our final picture was taken in 1977, when the railings outside the church were repainted and gilded, courtesy of the York Civic Trust. The railings were made to the design of the late Mr George Pace, the York architect who was involved in the reconstruction of the church.
“The work will add a touch of distinction to what is a most attractive enclave in the heart of the city,” said Civic Trust chairman at the time, John Shannon. The workmen in the picture are Martyn Furness, left, and Paul Norton.
January 1968: The new organ – a gift from the German Government is installed.
August 1977: The railings designed by George Pace are painted and gilded, courtesy of York Civic Trust.
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