Mansfield Students queuing up for their dinner may not pay much attention to the large, red textile that covers much of the South Wall of the Chapel. Nonetheless, The True Vine is an essential decorative feature and when it is removed, as it was over the Easter vacation, the absence is notable.

The textile illustrates the biblical metaphor of ‘The True Vine’ found in chapter 15 of The Gospel of John, complete with vines, leaves and grapes. It is embroidered with a Latin inscription from the verse, which translates as: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman”. The textile is vast: the entire embroidered panel measures 8.28m wide and 3.8m high.











The True Vine was first installed in 1905. Having been on open display for over 100 years it was extremely dusty and suffering various damages. A team from Textile Conservation Ltd determined that it would have to be removed for vital conservation treatment. The process involved freezing, cleaning, replacing damaged wool and stitching using coloured-matched wool threads.

When the textile was removed from the wall, a hand-written note was discovered on the wooden frame behind it. It is difficult to decipher the entire message, but “Parker of Altrincham, Cheshire, October 4th 1905” can be read. In Mansfield College, Oxford: Its Origin, History and Significance, Elaine Kaye writes that the hanging was sourced by the architect George Faulkner Armitage, who was indeed from Altrincham.  Furthermore, Faulkner employed the young Richard Parker, who went on to be an urban planner and architect associated with the Victorian Arts and Crafts Movement. We can therefore speculate that Richard Parker may have written the note during the original installation, and it remained undiscovered until the textile was removed.



With the textile now restored and hanging back in its place, it can continue to be enjoyed by the Mansfield community for the years to come. Many thanks are due to the team at Textile Conservation Ltd for preserving this College treasure.








Work was completed by textile conservators Alison Lister ACR, Constanze Zimmer ACR and Stella Gardner; and conservation assistant Elaine White. Images are copyright to Textile Conservation Limited.


Kaye, Elaine, Mansfield College, Oxford: Its Origin, History and Significance, Oxford University Press, 1996, 85.