St Mary’s Church Avington and the rehousing of the ‘Vinegar bible’ by Gill Graham-Maw

When I arrived in Avington in 1984 this bible (the Authorised Version of 1611) was housed in a vitrine on the North window sill open at the page that the bible is named after. It is called the Vinegar bible because there is a misprint in the running heading above the parable of the vineyard  Luke Chapter XX verses 2 – 36  where the word “vinegar” was used instead of “vineyard”.


It was printed in Oxford in 1717 by Baskett and the Bishop at the time was heard to remark that it was a ‘Baskett full of errors!’.

The bible with Apocrypha was originally in the chapel of Cannons Park the palace of the Duke of Chandos in Edgware, Middlesex, and two companion volumes of Common Prayer. We assume they ended up in Avington as the Duke of Chandos lived here as well as at Stowe and Cannons Park, demolished 30 years after it was built in 1747. 

The bible was taken out of the vitrine and stored in the cathedral for a year or so whilst we had the church renovated 10 years or so later and when it returned from the cathedral the PCC decided it should be stored away from the public gaze as it might get stolen.  

Since then I have been suggesting rehousing the books downstairs in a purpose-built cabinet. And finally, the DCC agreed with my suggestion and after noticing that Winchester College had recently used Polstore in Guildford to rehouse their new museum, Adam Lucas the son of the founder of Polstore came to see us in September 2017. In fact had it not been for the health and safety aspect of trying to remove the 15kg bible for interested visitors from the storage chest it might still be there. It needed two people to heave the bible out holding tightly onto its winding sheet and then try to put it onto a table for viewing. 

We now have the Polstore cabinet and we are delighted with it.  A grant was applied for  from Church Care to cover the cost of the cabinet and as a condition of the grant we must have the books conserved as they are in need of this. We were also extremely lucky to receive a grant of £800.00 from Boomtown.

So, the two sums of money will cover the cabinet and the conservation and display items to support the bible when it is open.

The cabinet is now in the vestry and not only is there room for the 3 books but also the wooden chest containing our church silver and files that were upstairs in the tower.

Since we started on this project health and safety has deemed it unsafe to mount the staircase to the tower so we are doubly grateful for the installation of the cabinet. 

Since the bible has been installed we now have to follow guidelines from Victoria Stevens who made the initial report. I have had the books and silver valued and await the report. This was a requirement of the Church Care grant. The files have to be rehoused in conservation grade boxes which I shall complete in the better weather and a hygrometer has been installed that is showing rather disconcertingly high damp readings.

Gill Graham-Maw

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