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Lincoln College (in full: The College of the Blessed Mary and All Saints, Lincoln) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxfordmarker in the United Kingdommarker. It is situated in the centre of Oxford, backing onto Brasenosemarker and, lying on Turl Streetmarker as it is, is the second oldest of the three Turl Street Colleges (Lincoln, Exetermarker, and Jesusmarker). As of 2006, Lincoln had an estimated financial endowment of £69m.


The College was founded on October 13 1427 by Richard Fleming, then Bishop of Lincoln, (cadaver tomb in Lincoln Cathedralmarker) to combat the Lollard teachings of John Wyclif. He intended it to be "a little college of true students of theology who would defend the mysteries of Scripture against those ignorant laymen who profaned with swinish snouts its most holy pearls". To this effect, he obtained a charter for the College from King Henry VI, which combined the parishes of All Saints, St Michael's at the North Gate and St Mildred's within the College under a rector. The College now uses All Saints Churchmarker as its library and has strong ties with St Michael's Church at the North Gate, having used it as a stand-in for the College chapel when necessary and has appointed its minister since 1427.

Encountering both insufficient endowment and trouble from the Wars of the Roses (for their charter was from the deposed Lancastrian), the College seems only to have survived thanks to tireless efforts by its fellows in gaining recognition of the college's validity and the munificence of a second Bishop of Lincoln, Thomas Rotherham. Richard Fleming died in 1431, and the first rector, William Chamberleyn, in 1434, leaving the College with few buildings and little money. The second rector, John Beke, saw the College's safety secured by attracting donors; the College had seven fellows by 1436. John Forest, Dean of Wells and a close friend of Beke's, donated such an amount that the College promised to recognise him as a co-founder; it did not keep this promise. His gifts saw the construction of a chapel, a library, hall and kitchen. After a pointed sermon from the incumbent rector, Thomas Rotherham was compelled to give his support and effectively re-founded it in the 1478, with a new charter from King Edward IV.

In the 18th Century Lincoln became the cradle of Methodism when John Wesley, a fellow there from 1726, held religious meetings with his brother Charles and the rest of Wesley's 'Holy Club', whom the rest of the university took to calling 'Bible-moths'. His appearances at College became less frequent after he departed for Georgia as a Missionary chaplain in 1735. Indeed, he took to signing his publications as "John Wesley, Sometime Fellow of Lincoln College". A portrait of him hangs in the Hall and a bust overlooks the front quad. The room where he is believed to have worked is also named after him and was renovated by American Methodists at the beginning of the 20th Century.

In the next century, Lincoln was the first college in Oxford (or Cambridge) to admit a Jewish Fellow, the Australian-born philosopher Samuel Alexander (appointed 1882).

Years after the success of his Cold War spy novels, novelist and Lincoln graduate John le Carré, himself a one-time spy, revealed that fictional spymaster George Smiley was modelled on former Lincoln rector Vivian H. H. Green. At least one other recent Lincoln Rector, Sir Maurice Shock, enjoyed a prior career in British intelligence, although there is little evidence to substantiate the college's reputation as a recruiting ground for spies.

The College was the first in Oxford or Cambridge to provide a Middle Common Room exclusively for the use of graduate students. Lincoln has admitted women since the 1970s.

In 2007, the College took the rare step of unveiling a commissioned portrait of two members of staff who were not fellows or benefactors of the College, in commemoration of their work. Chef Jim Murden and Butler Kevin Egleston have worked in the College's Kitchen and Buttery for 31 and 26 years respectively, as of 2008. Noted artist Daphne Todd was commissioned for the painting, who has had such notable sitters as HRH the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Spike Milligan.

The College is known as being the setting for many literary works, such as Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. C.P. Snow was inspired for his novel The Masters by the story of Mark Pattison, a fellow at Lincoln, whose enthusiastic hopes for Lincoln were frustrated by older, more conservative fellows of the college; Snow's story transposes the story to a Cambridge College. It has also been the setting for three episodes of Inspector Morse. Recently, Lewis has used Turl Street in front of the College for filming.

The College at present

Academically, Lincoln has consistently been one of the top ten colleges in the Norrington Table since 2006, and at various points since the new millennium before then. It is notable that with such a small student body, its Norrington score is much more susceptible to fluctuation than larger colleges. Its library holds some 60,000 books and is a popular place for graduates and undergraduates alike to work, especially given that it is open until 2am most nights compared to the earlier closing time of the Bodleianmarker and faculty libraries. It is kept up-to-date by regular purchases, and welcomes suggestions for books pertinent to studies. The upper reading room, or Cohen Room, has an elaborate plastered ceiling and the Senior Library (downstairs) holds some of the college's older books, including pamphlets from the English Civil War period, Wesleyana, and plays dating from the late 1600s and early 1700s, as well as a varied collection of manuscripts. The science library is also to be found downstairs. Access to the library is generally restricted to current students and staff at the college, although alumni may use the library if acceptable justification is provided.

As is common with Oxford colleges, the College has a longstanding rivalry with neighbour Brasenose Collegemarker (which was also founded by a later Bishop of Lincoln). The two colleges share a tradition revived annually on Ascension Day. The story goes that, centuries ago, as a mob chased students at the University through the town, the Lincoln porter allowed in the Lincoln students but refused entry to the Brasenose member, leaving him to the mercy of the mob. An alternative is that a Lincoln man bested a Brasenose man in a duel. Either episode resulted in the Brasenose student's death, and ever since, on Ascension Day, Lincoln College has invited in members of Brasenose College every year through the one door connecting the two colleges, for free beer as penance. Since the nineteenth century, the beer has been flavoured with ivy so as to discourage excessive consumption.

The College has ties to Middlebury Collegemarker in the form of the American college's Bread Loaf School of English, to which a clock donated by Middlebury stands in honour in the Porters' Lodge. The Bread Loaf School runs a summer graduate course at Lincoln, and a few students from Middlebury attend Lincoln as visiting students for a year through this connexion.

The College Grace

The College grace is read aloud at every formal hall, usually by a student. To encourage readers, students who read the grace twice in a term receive a bottle of wine. The College grace is in Latin:

Translated, this is rendered:

"Most gracious Father, who by thy providence rulest, in thy generosity feedest, and by thy blessing preservest all that thou hast created; bless us, we beseech thee, and these creatures for our use, so that they may be hallowed and of benefit to us, and we, strengthened thereby, may be rendered fitter for all good works; to the praise of thy eternal name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."


The College's front quad in winter

According to Nikolaus Pevsner, Lincoln College preserves "more of the character of a 15th century college than any other in Oxford". This is mainly because both the facade to Turl Streetmarker and the front quad are still of only two storeys (although the parapets and battlements are of the 19th century). One of the key factors in explaining why it is so well preserved is that, for much of its history, the College was one of the poorest of the Oxford colleges, and was unable to invest in expansion and renovation. The College also owns most of the buildings across Turl Street from the college proper, in whole or in part, which chiefly contain student accommodation. The creeper that covers the College's front quad walls is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), dark green in the Summer, through to scarlet in Autumn, whilst being bare in Winter.

There are three quads — front quad (15th century), chapel quad (1608–1631) and grove quad (19th century, more properly the Grove) — as well as a number of irregular spaces.

Chapel, in the snow, with All Saints spire in the background.

The college chapel was built in late perpendicular style between 1629 and 1631; its windows are enamelled rather than stained, which is a process of painting the windows then firing them, a complicated procedure. They are the work of Abraham van Linge, who was an expert in this technique. The East end window of the chapel depicts twelve biblical scenes: the top six depict scenes from Jesus' life (including the Last Supper), whilst the six below depict corresponding scenes from the Old Testament (Including Adam and Eve at Creation and the whale spitting out Jonah). The North and South windows show twelve Christian figures each: on the North, twelve prophets; on the South, the Twelve Apostles. The screen separating the ante-chapel (containing the organ) and the chapel proper is made of cedar, and reportedly filled the chapel with the strong scent of cedar for around the first one hundred years of its existence.

Much of the chapel was restored in a project beginning in 1999, having been deemed to be in unacceptable disrepair in the early 1990s, when a drive for funds to this end began. The black slate and white marble tiles were repaired, cleaned and replaced where necessary, whilst most of the age damage was to be found in the woodwork, which was suffering greatly from poor ventilation and having been laid directly on to earth, resulting in worm and wet rot. Cracks in the enamel of the windows were also repaired where most obvious and disfiguring. The renovations were done in the hope of preserving the chapel's 17th century character as much as possible, and indeed, the chapel has remained much unchanged since the wooden figurines (of St Peter, St Paul, Moses and Aaron) were placed on the front pews and the carved ceiling was installed in the 1680s.

Perhaps the college's most striking feature, its library is located in the converted 18th century church of All Saints, handed over to the college in 1971. All Saints churchtower is a notable feature of Oxford's skyline, one of the city's "dreaming spires". The Rector's lodgings in Turl Streetmarker are neo-Georgian and were built in 1929–1930; they are reached from within college through a gate in Chapel Quad, but have a main door on Turl Street. After the church spire collapsed in 1700, amateur architect and Dean of Christ Churchmarker Henry Aldrich designed a new church; it is thought, however, that on some of the later features of the church, the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of Britain's great baroque architects is to be found, namely on the tower and spire. The library has a full peal of eight bells, which are regularly rung.

Unlike many other colleges, all of the architecture of the college proper is mediaeval stone and there is no modern accommodation annexe. To quote the Lincoln College Freshers' Handbook, "Unlike most colleges, we have no grotty sixties annexe to spoil all the pretty bits". The college bar, Deep Hall (or Deepers), is immediately below the great hall and used to be the college beer cellar. It is one of the oldest parts of the college, and the pillars inside it are perhaps the oldest feature of the college. It is through Deep Hall that the MCR and college wine cellars are accessed, the latter of which extends completely beneath the Grove.

Student accommodation

The college is one of relatively few in Oxford to guarantee all undergraduates three years of college-owned accommodation. Similarly, virtually all graduate students are provided housing for the duration of their studies. The college's housing stock is extensive and centrally located. About 80 students live on the three quads described above, with over 100 more living in rooms above the shops on the other side of Turl Street. These comprise the Mitre rooms, formerly guest rooms of the Mitre Inn, which was owned by the College since the 15th Century. The accommodation was incorporated into the College in 1969, but the restaurants were left to the inn. Lincoln House, directly across from the College, was constructed in 1939 as an annexe. There were at one point vague plans for a bridge over Turl Street connecting the annexe to the College proper; these never materialised beyond a fantasy. Further accommodation is provided at Bear Lanemarker (across High Streetmarker). Donors Emily and John Carr gave to the College numbers 113 and 114 on the High Street, with land extending back to Bear Lane, which the College still owns and constitutes the Bear Lane accommodation. Also owned are 12 terraced houses (together officially called Lincoln Hall, but most commonly referred to simply as 'Mus Road') in Museum Roadmarker (by Keble Collegemarker). A number of outlying houses make up the remainder of the housing stock.

Junior Common Room

Due to Lincoln's small numbers and tightly-knit community, its Junior Common Room (JCR) plays a greater role in student life than do the JCRs of most other colleges. JCR elections, held in Trinity and Michaelmas Terms, attract one of the highest turnouts of any Oxford college. The JCR, like all JCRs in Oxford, is both a communal room for undergraduates (with a television, kitchen, vending machine, daily newspapers, a DVD library and sofas) as well as the name of the body that represents said undergraduates to the senior members of College and on a university-wide basis. All undergraduate members of the College are automatically members of the JCR, unless they specifically express a desire not to be a part of it. Honorary membership to others is sometimes extended, but have limited rights compared to other members.

The JCR is run by an Executive group of seven officers, headed by the President, which is ultimately responsible for the JCR, whilst the JCR Committee comprises thirty-four members and fulfils a wide range of duties, all aimed at the general improvement of the lives of and facilities available to the undergraduate body of the College. The JCR President for 2009–10 is James Meredith. His recent predecessors are Jøno Lain (2008-9), Peter Morcos (2007–8), Nicolas Long (2006–7), Oliver Munn (2005–6), Alasdair Henderson (2004–5), Mairi Brewis (2003–4) and Phil Bownes (2002–3). JCR meetings are held three times a term, in 2nd week, 5th week and 8th week of each.

The JCR was founded in 1854 as the Lincoln College Debating Society but was renamed in 1919 (although it continued to be referred to by its former name for some time after). From 1886, the society provided members of the Common Room with tobacco and cigarettes from its funds, as well as tea and coffee; however, "The President shall have the power to stop smoking while the Torpid [a rowing eight entering a regatta in Hilary Term] and the Eight [an eight entering a regatta in Trinity Term] are in training." Tobacco and cigarettes are no longer available from the JCR, but tea and coffee are to be found in the JCR kitchen, along with a vending machine within the JCR proper.

Notable former students

Lincoln seen from Turl Street.
The spire of All Saints Church, now the college library, is visible in the distance.


Front Quad in the snow.


  1. Oxford College Endowment Incomes, 1973-2006 (updated July 2007)
  2. John Laird, ‘ Alexander, Samuel (1859–1938)’, rev. Michael A. Weinstein, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, Retrieved 2 March 2009
  3. Paul Langford, ‘ Green, Vivian Hubert Howard (1915–2005)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009, Retrieved 2 March 2009
  4. The Lincoln College Grace, from the Office of the Butler, Lincoln College
  5. Freshers' Handbook 2008, p.5
  6. Exhibition at Lincoln College, Oxford (March 2009)
  7. The Rule Book of the Lincoln College Debating Society 1872-1920, on display at Lincoln College (March 2009)

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