Lincoln College

Wesley's Legacy

John Wesley is remembered at Lincoln College in numerous ways, including items in the Library, the Archive, and the College’s historic collection of art and silver.  Some of these items date from Wesley’s time while others are more recent donations. The Wesley Room was restored in 1928 to commemorate his association with the College and his lasting legacy.

Image: Bust of John Wesley in Front Quad

This section includes the following:

- The Wesley Room

College Plate: Silver decanter given by Richard Morgan

College Plate: Sauce boat given by Westley Hall

A Methodist Hymn Book

Sermon 1735: Wesley's first printed sermon

A New Spiritual Christmas-Box

Wesley on Foot

Letters from Lincoln


The Wesley Room

The Wesley Room at Lincoln is located on the south side of the front quad.  These rooms have traditionally been associated with Wesley and were restored by the American Methodist Committee  to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of his fellowship. They were reopened in a ceremony that took place on 10th September, 1928. Since this restoration further evidence has been uncovered to suggest that Wesley’s rooms were in fact in Chapel Quad (described here), a fact that in no way detracts from a generous memorial that testifies to Wesley’s connection with the College and to his important legacy.

During the restoration the rooms were repanelled in 16th century linen-fold oak taken from the drawing room of a dismantled castle; they are furnished in 18th century style with furniture that includes Chippendale chairs, a secretaire bookcase of the same period, a George IV mahogany writing table with Bramah locks, drawers and cupboard by Gillow, and a George III bracket-clock in a  mahogany case by William Stanford of Yarmouth, dated 1780. There is also a terrestrial library globe by Dudley Adams (one of a pair originally in the Senior Library) and a series of Staffordshire pottery busts of Wesley.

The Wesley Room houses the Wesley Collection, a library of more than 1300 printed books relating to John Wesley and the early history of Methodism. The collection includes important early editions of Wesley’s works, many of them rare, as well as works by John Fletcher, James Hervey, George Whitefield and others. The College owes this important library to Mrs May Hall who in 1952 donated the Wesleyana collected by her husband, the Reverend Albert F.  Hall, a former president of the Methodist Conference.


College Plate: Silver decanter given by Richard Morgan

It was customary for gentlemen commoners at Lincoln to give a piece of silver to the Senior Common Room: in 1730 these included a decanter from Richard Morgan as well as 2 sauceboats from Westley Hall and 12 forks from J. Westley, 2 candlesticks and snuffers from J. Thorold and a decanter from H. Hamilton. 

Richard Morgan was the younger brother of William, one of the founding members of the Holy Club and a pupil of Wesley’s. William Morgan’s death in 1732 had been attributed by some, including his father, to the rigours of the regime to which he had submitted as a member of the Holy Club. In spite of his misgivings, Richard Morgan senior entrusted his second son to Wesley’s care. Richard Morgan junior seems to have been anxious to avoid his brother’s fate and Wesley’s letters and journals paint a picture of the young Morgan caught between the rigour imposed by Wesley and the attractions of University life.

The decanter, which is still in use in the Senior Common Room, bears the inscription: Richardus Morgan Filius unicus Richardi Morgan Armigeri de Civitate Dubliniensis in Hibernia Soc: Com: Coll: Lin: D.D. The inscription, describing Richard Morgan as “filius unicus” (only son), is a poignant reminder of William Morgan’s death.


College Plate: Sauce boat given by Westley Hall

This sauce boat is one of a pair of identical pieces of plate given to the College, as was the practice of gentlemen commoners, by another of Wesley’s pupils, Westley Hall (1711-1776). In 1737 Hall married Wesley’s sister Martha, though he had also proposed to her sister Keziah (for which Charles Wesley called him a “smooth-tongued hypocrite”). In 1743 Wesley accused Hall of being “a weak, injudicious, fickle, irresolute man” when he failed to join them on their expedition to America. Hall then went on to become first a Moravian and later a deist and polygamist. Wesley, however, was convinced that he died repentant, a “monument of divine mercy, considering how low he had fallen.”

The inscription on the sauce boat reads: “D.D. Westley Hall de Civ: Sarum Socio-Commensalis Coll: Linc: 1735.” Like the decanter given by Richard Morgan, the sauce boat is still in use in the Lincoln Senior Common Room and at High Table.


A Methodist Hymn Book

This collection of 134 hymns by John and Charles Wesley was published anonymously in London in 1761 with 2 more editions in Bristol in 1765 and 1766.

The Lincoln copy bears the inscription of 3 former owners: John Fletcher, his wife Mary Fletcher and her companion Mary Tooth. John Fletcher (1729-1785) was a contemporary of Wesley’s and an early Methodist theologian. In 1781 he married Mary Bosanquet (1739-1815), a close friend of Wesley’s and one of the first Methodist women to preach. After Fletcher’s death Mary continued to run the Methodist society in Madeley, one of the few women to fill such a position, until her own death. Mary Tooth (1778-1843) was the last of Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher’s companions and also acted as her executrix. Active in Methodist affairs, she continued to preach until her death in November, 1843.

The Lincoln copy of the Hymns was evidently a much-used book: it is worn, roughly repaired and, most interestingly, annotated throughout (possibly in the hand of Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher). Many of the hymns, in the printed text simply numbered, bear a manuscript heading summing up the substance of the verses, for example “Longing to live & die in God” (XXXVIII) and  “Rejoicing in hope of bearing the weight of divine Love” (CXXVIII).

This volume formed part of the collection of Wesleyana belonging to the Rev. Albert F. Hall that was given to the College by his widow in 1952.

For the SOLO record for this book click here.

Image: Hymns for those to whom Christ is all in all (London, 1761)


Sermon 1735: Wesley's first printed sermon

One of the duties of a College Fellow was to preach sermons, a duty Wesley undertook with seriousness and a certain amount of controversy. This sermon on Job, Chapter vii, verse 7 (“There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest”) was the first of Wesley’s sermons to be published. It raises many topics familiar from Wesley’s sermons, exhorting his listeners finally to “lay aside very weight, and run with patience the race set before him? To count all things else but dung and dross; especially those grand idols, learning and reputation, if they are pursued in any other measure, or with any other view, than as they conduce to the knowledge and love of God.”

The Wesley Collection copy of the sermon is bound in a volume of 34 tracts by Wesley belonging to William Vesey, Lincoln Fellow and Archivist and a friend of Wesley’s: the book contains Vesey’s distinctive bookplate and, as is often found in Vesey’s books, a list of contents in his hand. The tracts have been arranged chronologically, starting  with this sermon and ending with a short piece entitled “Swear not at all, saith the Lord God” (possibly 1744) that has been attributed to Wesley.

For the SOLO record of this book click here.

Image: A sermon preached at St Mary’s in Oxford, on Sunday, September 21, 1735



A New Spiritual Christmas-Box

In his Short account of John Fletcher (London, 1786), Wesley described Fletcher’s departure  in 1758: “before his quitting the country, he gave me a few printed papers, entitled, “A Christmas-box for Journeymen and Apprentices.” I mention it the rather, because I suppose, this was the first thing which ever he published.” The small pamphlet of 8 pages illustrated here, entitled “A New Spiritual Christmas-box, to alarm the unconverted, convince the sinner, and comport the truly serious”, was recently found in the Wesley Collection bound at the end of a volume of discourses by John Cennick (1718-1755), the early Methodist and Moravian evangelist. It is uncertain whether this work is Fletcher’s actual publication or a later plagiarism by Cennick: there is no title-page and only a list of works sold by the  printer and bookseller Henry Trapp, of 1 Paternoster Row printed on the last page can help us date its publication. This is the only known copy of this short work.

The volume is inscribed “John Bell, Leeds 1893.” There are a number of books with this inscription in the Wesley Collection: they possibly formed part of the Hall collection of Wesleyana but as yet no further evidence of their provenance has been found.

Image: Title page of A New Spiritual Christmas-Box


Wesley on Foot

This antique walking stick once belonged to John Wesley, and the engraving “I. W.” is visible on the brass handle. It was bequeathed to the College in 1965 by George Nixon Eeles, who matriculated at Lincoln in 1919. The bequest papers give no indication of the walking stick's provenance before this gift, but one presumes Eeles wished the walking stick to return to his College because of its long association with John Wesley.

Wesley often travelled to his preaching commitments miles across the county on foot, and he notes in his diary his walks around the Grove at Lincoln with other fellows and students.     

Image: John Wesley's walking stick


Letters from Lincoln

John Wesley corresponded with his former student the Revd. James Hervey. Son of the curate of Collingtree, Hervey matriculated at Lincoln in 1731 and was closely allied with Wesley and the Holy Club from 1733. Wesley’s diary records that he read Hervey his sermon on at least one occasion, when he was due to preach at the University Church of St Mary’s in April 1733.

In the letter shown here, Wesley is writing from Lincoln College in November 1738, entreating Hervey to respond to him. After a further letter from Wesley, Hervey responds in August 1939, stating that, “I suppose my epistle miscarried, otherwise you would not have tax’d me with forgetfulness of a friend, whom I am infinitely oblig’d to, whom I dearly esteem.”  Theological differences emerge as Hervey advised Wesley to “Fix in some parish” as he did not approve of Wesley’s itinerant preaching. Three further letters between John Wesley and James Hervey are extant in the Wesley papers in the Archive at Lincoln College.

Images: Extract from correspondence between John Wesley and James Hervey, 1730s