Forty years after a bolt of lightning struck the roof of York Minster – causing a fire to rip through the historic cathedral – a new exhibition will look back at the heroic rescue efforts of those involved on the night.  

The exhibition – Out of the Ashes – opens at the Minster on Saturday, June 29, until June 2025.

It will also explore the clean-up operation and delve into four years of restoration work that returned the landmark to its former glory.

Powerful eyewitness accounts will tell how those on the ground reacted to the dramatic events of July 9, 1984, when the roof of the South Transept burst into flames.

The fire at York Minster in 1984The fire at York Minster in 1984 (Image: Supplied)

Photographs captured by horrified onlookers will be on show, along with fire damaged furniture that survived the blaze and the original drawings for six roof bosses designed by Blue Peter competition winners.

Kirsty Mitchell, curator at York Minster, described the fire as a “pivotal moment in York Minster’s history”.

York Minster fire July 9, 1984. Workmen set to work to clear the debris from the gutted South TranseptYork Minster fire July 9, 1984. Workmen set to work to clear the debris from the gutted South Transept (Image: Supplied)

“The archive accounts reveal tragedy and the sense of horror, but also the resilience and huge community strength as people came together to do what had to be done,” she said.

“We hope this exhibition does justice to the incredible efforts of those who fought the fire and all those who supported and carried out the beautiful restoration works.”

The exhibition features information about the restoration of the roof, vault, and Rose Window, as well as the ongoing cycle of restoration and conservation that continues today, led by a multidisciplinary team of skilled heritage craftspeople.

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Master mason emeritus John David has worked at the cathedral for over 40 years and was inside the Minster on the night of the fire.

“To be part of the team inside the Minster on the night was both a shocking and memorable experience,” he said.

“But by the next morning, when we could see that the rest of the Minster had been saved, despair turned into an eagerness to get on with the restoration. We had the skills here and it was our job.”

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A new digital-visual trail – On This Spot – will let visitors at the exhibition stand in the footsteps of those who saw the 1984 fire and its aftermath.

“The shocking events of 9 July 1984 will be revealed through vivid photographs allowing visitors to imagine seeing the blaze for themselves,” a Minster spokesperson said.

Publican Barry Grayson with his picture of York Minster on firePublican Barry Grayson with his picture of York Minster on fire (Image: Supplied)

“Each stop on the trail can be unlocked by scanning QR codes placed in and around the cathedral and will include chance for reflection and prayer.”

Entry is included with a standard admission ticket and entry to the Minster is free for York residents with valid proof of address.

For further details visit York Minster’s website.