In living colour – blaze that shocked the world

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IT was the blaze that stunned a city and shocked the world - and now we can print moving photographs of the devastating fire at York Minster in colour for the first time.

‘God’s house in flames’ read the front page of The Yorkshire Post on Tuesday July 10, 1984.

York Minster Fire 1984. The fire grips hold

York Minster Fire 1984. The fire grips hold

At 2.30am on July 9, flames started licking along the roof of the South Transept, and within in an hour they were leaping into the night sky.

Our photographers were there to record the devastating aftermath, and yet due to printing technology at the time, the majority were never seen in colour.

But now the true damage encapsulated by the pictures can be appreciated.

The Yorkshire Post’s picture archivist, David Clay, said: “In 1984 printing in full colour was a rarity so pictures of the aftermath of the York Minster fire only appeared in black and white at the time.

A contemporary photograph from the Minster fire showing fire damage to the South Transept and Rose Window.     ''Picture: Mike Cowling

A contemporary photograph from the Minster fire showing fire damage to the South Transept and Rose Window. ''Picture: Mike Cowling

“Recently, we discovered the original transparencies in our archive at The Yorkshire Post and we were surprised to find that they were in colour.

“After careful scanning and retouching we can present these images in their original state for the first time and exactly 30 years after the event.”

Almost 150 firefighters tackled the blaze, which had been burning for some time undetected in the roof spaces before the fire alarms began to sound.

As the flames began to take hold in the medieval Minster, firefighters began to lose control of its spread. Molten lead and burning debris has falling to the Transept floor, making the conditions inside incredibly dangerous.

The fire aftermath, the day after the blaze.''Picture: Graham Lindley

The fire aftermath, the day after the blaze.''Picture: Graham Lindley

More and more fire engines were brought it, and water was drawn from the River Ouse but the intense heat and unabating flames meant drastic action was called for - forcing the burning roof to drop to the floor, using jets of water.

But when the roof of the transept fell at 4am, a turning point in the battle to contain the fire took place.

The burnt and burning debris that covered the floor could now be completely extinguished.

By 5.05am, two and a half hours after the alarms were activated, the ‘fire surrounded’ message was transmitted to fire control.

Crews remained in the building for a further 24 hours.

In this time, The Yorkshire Post’s photographer Graham Lindley was allowed inside to take the main photograph on this page, printed today in colour for the first time.

In the days after the fire, experts erected a temporary plastic roof to the South Transept to make the building watertight, before four years of restoration work began.

On Wednesday, the Minster will mark the 30th anniversary of the fire during its Evensong service.

At 5.15pm, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York, will lead a service, which will include readings from people who were there on July 9, 1984, and a procession will be made to the South Transept.

The leader of York Council, Coun James Alexander said: the anniversary offered the opportunity to reflect on the good work of the emergency services. He added: “The hard work and dedication of professionals and volunteers in the early hours of July 9, 1984 means that today the Minster remains a focal point of worship in the city and continues to be visited by around half a million people each year, and that makes it an invaluable asset to the city”.

DOWNLOAD COPIES OF THE YORKSHIRE POST AND YORKSHIRE EVENING POST FROM 1984...

God’s house in flames - Yorkshire Post front page from July 10, 1984

Yorkshire Post eight-page supplement from July 10, 1984

Yorkshire Evening Post front page from July 9, 1984