How efforts to protect York Minster saw stained glass removed and hidden in bomb-proof shelters during First World War

One of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, York Minster has made its way onto almost every ‘must see’ list for tourists visiting the city.

In fact, you’d do well to miss the Grade I-Listed building. It stands proud on the skyline, its central tower reaching a height of just over 70m. And for panoramic views of the city, visitors can climb the 275 steps to the top, passing medieval stonework and gothic grotesques as they go.

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The minster has been at the centre of Christianity in the North of England since the 7th century and with hand-crafted stone and medieval stained glass is a building of grandeur.

York Minster standing proud on the skyline of York. Camera Details: Camera, Nikon D5 Lens, Nikon 70-200mm Shutter Speed, 1/500sec Aperture, f/8 ISO, 100. Photo: James Hardisty

The current structure dates from the 13th century and is a fragile masterpiece that needs tender care. It costs £23,000 per day to run and every year £2.5m must be raised to fund a programme of rolling maintenance to conserve it for future generations.

Among current work is a £2m refurbishment of its grand organ, which goes back to the 1830s. The instrument and nearly all of its 5,403 pipes were removed in for the restoration, which will enable it to continue to provide the heartbeat of daily worship services for many years to come.

Another focus is the protection of its 128 stained glass windows, whilst work to replace stone and glass in the South Quire Aisle will be one of the cathedral’s main conservation and restoration projects for the next decade.

The minster holds the largest single collection of medieval stained glass in the country - and during wartime Britain, care was taken to preserve it.

After devastating zeppelin raids on York in the First World War, precautions were taken to protect the irreplaceable glass, with 109 windows removed. It is reported that the glass was hidden in bomb proof shelters around the minster site.

Eighty windows were also removed during the Second World War.

Such care when it comes to conservation has enabled the minster to continue to thrive today. And long may that continue.