York Minster's master stonemason recalled the night the cathedral caught fire in 1984, as an exhibition was unveiled to honour the occasion - 40 years on.

Master Mason Emeritus John David was a resident in the Minster's precinct at the time of the fire.

On the night of July 9, 1984, a lightning strike struck the south transept of the Minster.

"I was awoken at two o'clock in the morning by a neighbour who was a landlord in the local pub," John said.

"He rang the doorbell incessantly and woke me and my wife up and basically said the south transept's on fire so we went to have a look."

John added that he could see the lead on the south transept melting as the flames started to come through the building.

The Minster's South transept caught fire in 1984 (Image: Newsquest)

He added: "I realised I ought to be doing something so I came round to the back of the Minster to meet staff.

"We were all taking valuables out of the Minster, and showing the firemen how to get up to the roof."

After a short time, the firefighters took the decision to collapse the roof of the south transept and stop the fire spreading.

Despite the damage, John and his fellow stonemasons were resolute in their efforts to rebuild the Minster.

He said: "From a craftsman view we knew it was a disaster, but it wasn't something we couldn't put right.

"I knew we could rebuild it, we were confident of putting it back together."

A look at the new "Out of the Ashes" exhibition (Image: Harry Booth)

To mark the night, and the four-year effort from people like John and his colleagues to repair the damage, the Minster is unveiling their 'Out of the Ashes' exhibition on Saturday (June 29).

The exhibition shows a timeline of events, a collection of photos, stories and information about what happened from the moment the lightning strike hit to when Queen Elizabeth II reopened the south transept.

Exhibition curator, Kirsty Mitchell said: "The thing that stood out to me is how recent it was.


"The pressure on this exhibition was about doing justice to all the people involved."

Over the past seven months, Kirsty has collected images from the fire, and met with people who were there on that famous night in 1984.

She added: "It was really important to not only tell the story of the fire, but the people who were here when it happened.

"It was so powerful to hear them recount it."

Kirsty went on to praise the practicality of people like John, who she said never gave up on the belief that the Minster's south transept could be rebuilt.