Relics rescued from York Minster fire on sale in historic auction

28 Jul 2014 @ 10.31 am
| History, Shopping
All the timbers being sold have been marked with a stamp of authenticity. Photographs: York Minster

Thirty years after York Minster was nearly lost to a devastating fire, charred relics of that extraordinary night are to go under the hammer.

The Minster Stoneyard annual auction has become a popular tradition. And this year for the first time people can bid for some of the timbers that were charred during the blaze that ripped through the South Transept in July 1984.

Auction details

The items in the sale will go on display in Dean’s Park on:

  • Thursday, August 14 from 2pm to 7.30pm, and
  • Friday, August 15 from 10am to noon
    The auction itself takes place on August 15 at 12.30pm

    More information at

    The timbers, taken from the during work to repair the damage from the fire, include a number of bosses – carved wooden “hubs” where the ribs of the vaulted ceiling met.

    Some still retain original paint and gilt-work.

    Smaller pieces of wood have been specially branded with the York Minster logo as a sign of their authenticity. All are made from 14th century oak.

    “Images of flames licking out of the roof of the South Transept have been widely used as we marked the 30th anniversary of the fire, so it seemed appropriate now to bring out some of the timbers that we have had in storage for three decades and make them available for people to buy,” said Rebecca Thompson, superintendent of works for York Minster.

    “The wonderful thing about this auction is that people get to take home a piece of the historic building’s fabric, whilst also contributing to the ongoing task of maintaining it for future generations, as all the money made is ploughed back into future works.”

    Highlights of the auction

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    A face can be seen in a South Transept window boss, and timbers rescued from the fire Click to see the full image

    The timber items will be auctioned off alongside many pieces of stone that have been removed and replaced during conservation works.

    Around 100 items are expected to be auctioned, with a number of smaller pieces of stone and wood available for fixed prices.

    Highlights of this year’s sale include a couple of two-piece stone pinnacles which stand between four and five feet high.

    The square pyramid designs have crockets, or leaf carvings, on each corner. They could either be used as stand-alone sculptures, or adapted to make a bird table or bath.

    Other stones include sections taken from the “tracery” of the Great East Window, which is currently undergoing a major restoration.

    The stones come in a wide range of sizes, from those easily carried home to large pieces that will require several people to lift into a truck.

    “Today, all the stone that is removed from the building is carefully examined by the Minster archaeologist and most pieces are numbered, listed and photographed as part of the ‘worked stone inventory’,” Rebecca said.

    Last year’s stone auction raised a total of just over £20,000 with prices ranging from around £20 to £1,400 for a weathered grotesque.