Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor introduces the excavation. he demonstrates graphically his worries for the foundations of York Minster, which is shared by the press. A £2m appeal is to be launched. People in the street voice their appreciation of the great cathedral. The Archbishop of York summarises the ecclesiastical importance of the Minster.
The cathedrals of England. Aspects of their construction, decay and repair. York Minster is now in peril. Renovation and excavation is underway. Drilling and reinforcing. Electronic checking of the structure.
Bernard Feilden, Architect to the Dean and Chapter of the Minster, describes the worrying cracks he has discovered in the piers of the tower. These are moving and widening. Use of 'telltales' and an electronic strain gauge to monitor the cracks on a weekly basis. The problem of probing, and probably destroying, what lies under the cathedral, e.g. the base of a Roman column which is located nine feet below the level of the crypt which itself lies seven feet below the main floor level of today's Minster. The Minster stands in the middle of a legionary fortress.
Hope-Taylor briefly discusses the origins of the Minster - the small buildings from which it grew. The emergency excavations have revealed the massive foundations on which the walls of the early Norman cathedral were built. These foundations were built of stone and concrete with timbers running through them and it is on these that the massive piers of the Minster are resting. This is the engineering problem that is presented. Under these foundations the ground is now giving way. To find out why the archaeologists have to dig, and quickly. Paul Beckman of Ove Arup Consulting Engineers explains the probable reasons for the flaws in the Minster. One of these could be due to a lowering of the ground water table which has made the ground compress. Another could be that the old tree trunks in the mortar raft have rotted causing the mortar raft to squash up.
The experts discuss how best to treat the progressive disease that is threatening to kill the Minster. Bernard Feilden outlines their proposals. First the tower has to be made strong enough to withstand the operation. Then the new foundations can be put in place. A restored stained-glass window in the Minster is blessed.
A tour guide takes a group of adults around the Minster. The boys of York Minster Song School enter a classroom to be greeted by their teacher. Cathedral administration staff at work. A choir rehearsal. Stone masons at work. A stone block being sawn electrically. A church minister rehearses a first communion group of girls. The choir in rehearsal again.
Craftsmen on ladders refitting a stained-glass window. Bell-ringers ring the bells. The boys of York Minster Song School cross the pedestrian crossing in front of the Minster. A service inside. Interior and exterior architectural features of the cathedral.
A discussion about the possible collapse of the tower takes in a visit to the ground-level remains of Old Sarum in Wiltshire with a drawn reconstruction of the massive cathedral that had once stood there. Ruins of some other old churches in England. Appeals for restoration boards outside different cathedrals. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, gives his thoughts on voluntary funding as against state funding (as in France) of historic cathedrals.
Craftsmen at work high on the Minster. The scaffolding. A church service inside. Drilling and reinforcing work. Dr. Alan Richardson, Dean of York, explains that the Minster has managed to keep all church services going throughout the restoration work.
Brian Hope-Taylor states that the riches of York Minster must be saved for the nation. Details of stone carvings and of the kings of England carved on the choir screen are shown. The stained-glass windows, with special reference to the great east window and the five sisters window. Details of carved sculptures. The exterior of the cathedral again. the choir sings. With the excavation in the background Hope-Taylor concludes with a final appeal.