IT was in September, 23 years ago, that the people of South Devon woke to news of a devastating fire in the heart of Totnes.
The iconic East Gate, symbol of the medieval town, had been gutted and with it numerous other historic buildings around it.
Only the determined efforts of 100 firefighters and a calm, windless night, stopped the blaze spreading along the High Street, wiping out more irreplaceable heritage.
Totnes was effectively cut in two by the fire and it was to stay that way for 19 months before the arch was finally open to traffic.
It was another three months after that before the gatehouse and neighbouring offices were formally re-opened following an £800,000 rebuilding operation.
Nothing had been left of the old lath and plaster gatehouse above the arch level after workmen ripped down what was left of the unsafe walls.
An appeal was sent out, calling for photographs and records of the old building so plans could be drawn up to rebuild it exactly as it had been before.
New clock faces had to be re-made, a new clock mechanism from the right era was donated by Kingston-upon-Thames University, a bell to replace the one melted in the blaze was found in the old cemetery building in Plymouth Road, Totnes, and the complex was finally re-opened in July, 1992.
On the night of the blaze, people claimed to have smelled smoke in the area of the arch as early as 9pm — but it was not until 1.30am the next morning firefighters were called out as it became obvious the gatehouse complex was ablaze.