Dating from the Tudor period bible boxes were an important household item. Their primary function, as you might have guessed, was to house bibles along with writing materials and documents.
The first bible box I handled had the date 1697 inscribed. Standing in my living- room, I circled it with an acute deference. It had been constructed when William of Orange was King and only around 30 years after the Great Fire of London. I felt a surge of incredulity.
That’s the thing about antiques – they’re emotive. They ignite your sensibilities.
Mine came fixed to a stand from the later Victorian period (this is quite common). The stand wasn’t pleasing and it wobbled like jelly. I decided the box would be more saleable without it. I consulted a restorer but with a two-month waiting time and a hefty quote I decided to go it alone. With my trusty hammer and chisel in hand I slowly prised the box off.
Made of oak with its original lock plate and hinges and with its front frieze relief carved with Jacobean Swirls, it really looked the part. It had its splits and cracks but who wants a 300-year-old piece that doesn’t look 300 years old?
Some boxes are more sophisticatedly decorated, while others are plainer and naively cobbled together.
A relatively high number have survived but that doesn’t detract from them being special and unusual to find in a modern home. Expect to pay anything between £100 and £1000 on eBay and on specialist websites such as antiques-atlas.com and sellingantiques.co.uk.
Bible boxes are highly decorative, small pieces of furniture making them suitable additions to the smallest of spaces. Slip one into your décor and you will have acquired not just an alternative look but a genuine piece of history. And what a great place to keep your photos, sentimental papers and other bits and pieces.