Founded in 1427 by Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, as the College of the Blessed Mary and All Saints, Lincoln, Lincoln College has a well-preserved medieval quadrangle and hall. Seventeenth-century building work completed another quadrangle and the College chapel. Much of the fabric of the College remains as it would have looked through John Wesley’s eyes.
Image: Front Quad, Lincoln College
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Lincoln had undergone substantial renovations in the first part of the 17th century and by the early 18th century consisted, as it does now, of two small quadrangles containing rooms for Fellows and undergraduates as well as a 15th century dining hall, the College chapel and the library. On 5 August 1662 the College ordered that “the chamber under the library westward be set apart and appropriated to the use of the fellows for their common fires and any other public meetings” and it was here, in the new Senior Common Room, that Fellows met to drink wine after dinner, talk and make bets. When he visited Lincoln in 1669 Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, found the College to be so beautifully constructed that it was “il piu elegante d’Oxford.”
David Loggan was appointed public sculptor to the University in 1669 and published his collection of over 40 engraved plates of Oxford colleges, grounds and maps in 1675. By this date the major works undertaken in the 17th century had been completed and the College looked as it would do some 50 years later when Wesley was elected to a fellowship. The Lincoln copy of the Oxonia illustrata was bought as part of the refurbishment of the library that took place under the governance of Nathaniel Crewe: a note in the college accounts from 1675 records a payment “to Mr Loggan for his booke, £1 10s. 0d.” The College copy is bound in red morocco and lavishly decorated, with the University arms stamped in gilt at the centre of both covers.
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Image: Engraving of Lincoln College from David Loggan, Oxonia illustrata (Oxford, 1675)
The College Chapel, built in a Jacobean Gothic style, was consecrated in 1631 by the Bishop of Oxford under commission from John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. During John Wesley’s time, the fragrant smell of cedar would still have been present from the interior woodwork, recalling Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and the Virgin Mary. The pulpit from which John Wesley preached is still extant today, as is the fine screen.
The famous enamelled glass panes of the chapel windows were decorated by master window painter Abraham Van Linge (active 1625-41). The front pews with statues and ceiling carvings completed the work in the 1680s, since when the chapel has remained virtually unchanged.
Image: Lincoln College Chapel
In the 18th century the College library was located in the former chapel on the north side of the front quad above the Senior Common Room (now the Burgess Room). The chapel had been converted in 1660 by Nathaniel Crewe’s father, on Crewe’s election as Subrector: he spent £200 on the project which included new registers and catalogues, a benefactors’ book, two portraits of founders and new books, including Loggan’s Oxonia illustrata. When the German scholar and bibliophile Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach visited the library in 1710, however, he thought it “very disorderly as most of the Bibliothecae Collegiorum are.” One further change took place to the library in this period: in 1737 the lawyer Sir Nathaniel Lloyd, a former member of the College, gave Lincoln £500 “out of his particular regard to this place of his education.” The College spent the money on new shelving for the library; for some reason Lloyd was unhappy with the way his money had been spent and in later wills inserted the clause “Item, I gave to Lincoln College, Oxford, where I was a commoner, £500, in 1737, but it not being laid out as I directed so no more from me.” These shelves are still in place in the Senior Library (illustrated).
As a Fellow, Wesley would have been allowed access to the library (it was closed to undergraduates until 1813 when the College allowed them to be admitted if accompanied by a Fellow). There is evidence from Wesley’s diaries that he made use of the library, including an entry from 6 July, 1741: “Looking for a book in our College library I took down by mistake the works of Episcopius, which, opening on an account of the Synod of Dort, I believed it might be useful to read through. What a Scene is here disclosed."
When Wesley was elected to a fellowship in 1724 the Rector of Lincoln was John Morley, a Fellow of the College since 1689 and Rector from 1719. Like Wesley, Morley was originally from Lincolnshire and since 1711 had held the College living of Scotton, near Gainsborough, making him a neighbour of Wesley’s father Samuel. Wesley seems to have liked and respected Morley, describing him on his death as “one of the best friends I had in the world.” The Oxford antiquarian Thomas Hearne judged Morley more harshly, describing him as a “worthy, honest man” who had ultimately become idle as a result of marriage and preferment. On his death Morley left the College £100, to be put towards the cost of a living, and his collection of silver Queen Anne medals.
The portrait of Morley, which now hangs in the Senior Common Room, is attributed to Johann Kerseboom (d. 1708), a German painter who set up in London in the 1680s and is best known for his portrait of Robert Boyle.
When John Wesley was elected to Lincoln College he became part of a small group of Fellows. As such, he was expected to take part in meetings to make decisions about the running of the College.
This image shows the Rector and Fellows signing off on an item of College business approved at one of the regular meetings during the academic year. The College’s Medium Registrum records a decision on 1 February 1723 concerning the privileges of gentlemen commoners. This class of student was required to pay £12, or give a piece of plate of that value, to the College within 3 months of matriculating. Much of this plate is still in use at Lincoln today, including that given by Wesley’s students (Click here to read more about this college plate).
This decision was signed by the Fellows present: John Morley, Rector; Thomas Vaughan, Subrector; and fellows: William Vesey, John Tottenham, Richard Hutchins, John Brereton, Euseby Isham. In addition, Knightly Adams, Michael Robinson, Benjamin Manjey, and Charles Dymoke were also Fellows at Lincoln when John Wesley was elected in 1726.
Image: Medium Registrum, folio 287 recto