Two fire crews and a police helicopter were called to Durham Cathedral after the university students clambered on to the Dean’s House last Friday night, with the rescue estimated to have cost several thousand pounds.
The Dean’s House is part of the cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century and has protected status as a world heritage site.
It is believed the students were mimicking “night climbers” from Oxford and Cambridge who scale walls and buildings for a dare, but they got stuck and were unable to get down. The helicopter was needed to locate the students on the cathedral buildings.
The Dean of Durham, the Very Rev Michael Sadgrove, said: “I cannot deny that I am deeply concerned that the cathedral has been treated with such disrespect, that Durham University has been brought into disrepute and that the taxpayer has had to bear the costs of a wholly unnecessary emergency call-out.
“But what most worries me is the reckless disregard the students had not only for their own lives but for others, in particular colleagues here at the cathedral and members of the emergency response team.
“Alcohol has obviously played a key part in this dangerous adventure and it is vital that this issue is addressed for the sake of good relations between Durham city and the university, and the welfare of the students themselves.
“Ironically it was other Durham University students who alerted cathedral security staff to the incident. Thank you to them, cathedral staff and the emergency services.”
Durham Police said the students have received a warning for their behaviour.
Professor Graham Towl, pro-vice-chancellor and deputy warden of Durham University, said: “We are taking this incident very seriously and are currently investigating it in accordance with our internal procedures which includes liaison with the emergency services.”