The Archives of Lincoln College, Oxford

Scope and Content

The Archive holds nearly 16,000 catalogued items in a range of formats, including parchment, paper, bound volumes, photographs, sheet music, objects, engravings and audio-visual material.

The administrative archives of Lincoln College begin with its foundation in 1427; with charters, accounts, registers and correspondence present from the 15th century; several other series of business and student records survive only from the 17th century.The records of the Eckney and Petsoe estate in Buckinghamshire date from the late 12th century, with several other estates' records extant from the 13th century.

Up to the mid-nineteenth century the archives consist largely of the College's business and estate records. From then, increasing quantities of records relating to students, Fellows, societies, correspondence, photographs, ephemera, College publications and personal papers are extant in the collections. The College held estates predominately in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and Yorkshire with some in other counties; the estates in tandem with several benefactions supported the for Fellows and scholars.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lincoln was founded in 1427 as the College of the Blessed Mary and All Saints, Lincoln, by Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln. Its aim was to train men in the strict faith of the Roman Catholic Church, in part to combat the doctrines of John Wycliffe's theology. The foundation charter brought together the three Oxford parishes of All Saints, St Michael at the North Gate and St Mildred's under College governance. St Mildred's church was demolished shortly after the foundation to make way for the main Quadrangle. Bishop Fleming died in 1431 before endowing the College.
The College attributes a second foundation in 1478 to Thomas Rotherham, Bishop of Lincoln, when he obtained a new royal charter under which the College was to be a perpetual corporation with further privileges and written statutes. On the basis of this more stable foundation, the College has provided education continuously since the 15th century.
Notable Old Members include poet laureate William Davenant, who matriculated c.1618 and resided in College for a short time; eminent physician and Oxford benefactor John Radcliffe, Fellow 1670-1675; John Wesley, founder of Methodism, Fellow 1726 to 1751; poet and author Edward Thomas, history scholar in the 1890s; Sholto Douglas, Marshall of the Royal Air Force, who matriculated in 1913;Theodore Geisel, who wrote as Dr Seuss, a Rhodes Scholar in the 1920s, Lord Florey, Norman Heatley and Sir Edward Abraham who are noted for their development of antibiotics, Fellows from the 1930s-1940s; Denis Hills, writer and journalist, PPE student in the 1930s; Egon Wellesz, composer and musicologist, Fellow 1938-1974; David Cornwell, who writes as John Le Carré, studied Modern Languages in the 1950s; Lancelot Ware, Mensa founder, studied Law in the 1940s; and Stephanie Cook, gold medallist in the modern pentathlon in the 2000 Olympics, read medicine.
The College held estates predominately in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and Yorkshire with some properties in other counties; the estates in tandem with several benefactions supported Fellows and scholars. The records of several estates predate the foundation of the College in 1427.

Access Information

By appointment. Some modern material may be subject to exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, 2000, and therefore not available for research.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available at

Conditions Governing Use

Most archives are the copyright of Lincoln College, Oxford. Please contact the Archivist for further details about reproducing items from our collections.

Custodial History

Cataloguing of the archives did not begin in earnest until late in the 20th century. Prior to this, Fellow Octavius Ogle compiled a list of charters and leases in 1891-3. The papers of N V Sigwick were catalogued for the Committee on Scientific and Technological Records in 1974. Vivian H H Green arranged vital conservation work for damaged records from the 1950s and used the collections extensively in his research for the last published College history (OUP, 1979).
In the early 1980s, Clare Hopkins catalogued the records in the Archive, and her work resulted in the five-volume printed catalogue. Her arrangement and description of the core administrative series form the basis of the current catalogue. Jon Newman continued cataloguing work in the early 1990s using Modes software, and listed photographic holdings and began an accessions register. Andrew Mussell was Archivist between 2003-2014 and created the Printed Catalogue Additions binder from Word and Excel. Angela Haighton catalogued the papers of alumnus Anthony Goodman in 2008-2009. Lindsay McCormack updated the cataloguing and referencing scheme in 2016 for consistency across hierarchical levels and referencing. CALM cataloguing software was installed in 2016 and migrated to Epexio in 2019. Ongoing cataloguing work includes updating previous catalogues to the ISAD(G) cataloguing standard and new descriptions of literary and scientific papers.

Related Material

Modern and antiquarian printed books are held in the Library and Senior Library of Lincoln College. The College's manuscript collections are on deposit in the Bodleian Library. There are records related to members of Lincoln College in the Oxford University Archives. Records of College estates may also be held in the relevant county record office.