Notre Dame fire stirs memories of devastating 1985 blaze at All Saints Leighton Buzzard

The devastating blaze at Notre Dame cathedral last week brought back harrowing memories of the night Leighton Buzzard’s All Saints Church was nearly destroyed by fire.

The cathedral caught fire on Monday evening (April 15) and was not fully extinguished until almost 15 hours later, with most of the roof destroyed and its famous spire collapsing.

All Saints' Church, Leighton Buzzard, fire 1985, firefighters clearing up.

All Saints' Church, Leighton Buzzard, fire 1985, firefighters clearing up.

It was a hard watch for Terry Warburton, appeal director of All Saints Preservation Trust, who vividly recalls when disaster struck in Leighton Buzzard in 1985.

He said: “May 7 is the 13th anniversary of the re-consecration of Leighton’s 13th century All Saints church, following the huge fire which nearly destroyed it on the night of 13 April 1985.

“As someone who was there and witnessed what was happening, it was hard 34 years later, almost to the day, to watch on television the massive fire raging through Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

“As the flames spread I felt again that huge sense of loss of history, matched by a growing determination, felt by others on the night, to do all that was possible to save, restore and put back what had been lost.

Notre Dame fire

Notre Dame fire

“There is a huge amount of work ahead for those involved with the repair of Notre Dame, but the basic structure seems intact and I am sure they will be surprised at the support that will be forthcoming from the wider community.

“These old churches are part of the culture, history and identity of western civilisation, as well as centres of calm and belief. Too valuable to dismiss.”

Mr Warburton added: “It took four years before All Saints could re-open again, it will undoubtedly take longer for Notre-Dame cathedral to be repaired, but I suspect that in years to come they will look back and say to themselves ‘15 April 2019 was a dreadful night, but thank God it happened, because it gave us an opportunity to renew and to put back what was lost, only stronger and better than ever’.”