Investigation as stone pinnacle falls off Beverley Minster
AN URGENT investigation is under way into why a stone pinnacle crashed down from Beverley Minster.
The large section, estimated to stand about 6ft tall, smashed into the roof with some landing in the churchyard next to the Highgate entrance.
That doorway has now been closed and cordoned off while structural engineers make sure the stonework is safe.
Meteorologists have also been consulted to advise on whether an exceptionally strong wind battering the western end of the minster may have been the cause.
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From the ground, it appears the large 15th-century pinnacle piece may have been lifted off by the wind on the afternoon of January 30 – a day on which severe gusts of up to 60mph were recorded at nearby Leconfield.
John English, surveyor to Beverley Minster Old Fund, which is responsible for the maintenance of the historic building, said: "It is still a bit of a mystery.
"A building that has stood for almost 800 years must have experienced every kind of wind condition, so it could take some time to establish what, if anything, was different about this one."
The Reverend Jeremy Fletcher, vicar at Beverley Minster, said: "It's a bit of a mystery but it was one of those days when there were severe gusts of wind.
"It looks like the wind lifted the pinnacle off."
The vicar said the pinnacles are in sections slotted one on top of the other and held by a central metal support.
It appears the metal support is still there but the stone has been lifted off.
Mr Fletcher said: "It's a significant piece of masonry – it's an incredibly unusual occurrence.
"It's a source of great relief to know no one was around when it happened.
"The masonry was five to ten metres away from where people enter the building.
"There is protection going around the pinnacles. When that is signed off, we'll reopen the Highgate entrance."
The Minster's ancient stonework is inspected every five years to check on the effects of weathering.
The last check was done in 2010 and some of the pinnacles were taken down in 2011 for repairs after they were seen to be moving in the wind.
Mr Fletcher said: "I'm confident all the checks were up to date with the stonework at the minster."
Repairs, paid for by the church's insurance, are expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds.