The first buildings, erected c1430, were probably the west range facing Turl Street with the gateway and one staircase on either side of it; until c1470 the Rector lived in the Tower Room above the archway. The upper storey of the tower was a strong room, and still houses part of the archives. The north range, the Hall and the kitchen behind it, were built c1437. The original library and chapel were situated on the first floor of this range, the chapel occupying the eastern and larger portion. After the new chapel was opened in 1631, the library was moved across the staircase in 1660 into the old chapel. Here it remained until 1906, subsequently becoming a Fellow's set of rooms, and recently a new senior common room with columns brought from elsewhere.
Below this, on the ground floor, is the original senior common room of 1662, wainscoted in 1684. Lincoln's was one of the earliest common rooms established in Oxford or Cambridge for the use of the dons and 'senior' members. In it they drank their wine, smoked their pipes, read their newspapers, played cards, and conversed in seclusion from their pupils and servants.
They were also accustomed to place bets on events of topical interest. The College still possesses a betting book that commences in 1809, but the practice was much older. Over the sideboard hangs a portrait of Nathaniel Crewe, successively sub-Rector and Rector of the College before becoming Bishop of Oxford and then of Durham. Crewe was instrumental in bringing a measure of genteel refinement to the College in the 1660s and 1670s. A later improvement was the port 'railway' that runs along the mantle over the fire, permitting decanters to be passed in a complete circle around the assembled company without those nearest the fireplace having to rise from their chairs. The 'Waterloo' mahogany chairs and tables now displayed are also later, dating from the style named after Wellington's victory, in 1815.
The Hall, for long the main common room as well as the dining room for all members of the College, has undergone a number of changes in the course of centuries. It originally had an open hearth in the centre of the room (the original smoke louvre can still be seen) with an earthen floor. Floorboards were not laid down until the early sixteenth century, and the fire was moved to the eastern wall in 1699. In 1701 the walls and screen were panelled (though as the subscriptions did not produce enough money to wainscot it entirely in oak, some plain wood was included and coloured to look like oak). At the same time a ceiling was introduced to conserve warmth, and the mullioned windows were replaced by sash windows in accordance with contemporary fashion.
In 1889 the College engaged the architect TG Jackson to restore the Hall. The windows were re-Gothicised on the pattern preserved behind the chimney-breast, and heraldic emblems of the founders and benefactors were placed as roundels in them. The ceiling was removed, revealing again the splendid 15th-century timber roof. Jackson also installed the ornate fireplace, with its initials commemorating the two fifteenth century founders, Richard Fleming and Thomas Rotherham. One twentieth-century Rector, JAR Munro, suggested that the initials stood for the words: 'Refreshment For The Rector'. Refreshment continues to provide the main function for the Hall. Meals are still served during term time, including a formal dinner at which the Rector and Fellows preside on High Table. Students and dons still wear gowns on this occasion, though in the case of students they are likely to be combined with jeans and trainers, and the College's unique medieval grace is said in Latin.
The portraits are of past Rectors, Fellows and benefactors. The portrait of John Wesley, Fellow 1728-1751, behind the dais is after Romney. In the centre of the end wall is the College's seventeenth-century visitor and benefactor, John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln; above it there is a commanding picture of the unpopular Rector Tatham (d 1834). On the west wall, next to the fireplace, Nathaniel, Lord Crewe as Bishop of Oxford, by Sir Godfrey Kneller and directly opposite, by the same artist, Crewe again as a peer of the realm. Crewe was the principal subscriber to the refurbishing of the Hall at the start of the eighteenth century and the twin emblems of his temporal and spiritual power (a baron's helmet and a bishop's mitre, placed in the coronet of the Prince-Bishops of Durham) overlook the Hall at its northern end. Also at the north end, flanking the main doors, are portraits of the two founders themselves. Their provenance dates back to the sixteenth century but not to their own lifetimes. Whether they resemble their subjects is accordingly uncertain.
Between the Hall and the Buttery runs a passage that passes through a glass-covered atrium and newly created food preparation areas behind the kitchen before terminating in a doorway beyond which Brasenose College lies. Once a year, on Ascension Day, this door is opened so that the ancient ceremony of beating the bounds of the parishes of St Michael's and All Saints can be performed, the passage constituting the boundary between the two parishes. On this occasion members of Brasenose and other visitors are entertained to Lincoln ale infused with ivy according to a recipe known only to the College butler. At the same time the schoolchildren who have assisted in beating the bounds gather in the quadrangle to scramble for hot coins thrown by students from the battlements. The ceremony goes back to pre-Reformation times. The rooms above the Buttery were originally created in the 1950s to commemorate Lord Florey's role in the discovery and development of penicillin, being paid for by an American benefactor, Mrs Mary Lasker, after whom one of them is still named. The other is named after Mr Bryan Montgomery, an alumnus of the College, who generously contributed to the refurbishing of the kitchen and adjoining areas in 1999-2000.
The kitchen, situated behind the Hall, is a building of much interest, retaining its high medieval roof. It is one of the oldest kitchens still in culinary use in the world, having been modernised in 2001 to enable it to continue in use while coming up to the most exacting sanitary and safety standards. The ancient oak door which can be seen from the Atrium Passageway, at least as old as the College and possibly older, is now disused but still remains in place.
A flight of stairs opposite the kitchen leads to a college cellar in which is situated the undergraduate bar, known as Deep Hall in a punning reference to one of the medieval student hostels incorporated in the College. It was one of the first student bars established in Oxford after the Second World War. Before that, students were accustomed before meals to buy their beer from the Buttery, next to the kitchen, and drank it in the quadrangle in fine weather, and in the open area between the servery and the Hall at other times. After that, alcoholic beverages had to be ordered to one's personal room. In the Deep Hall Foyer sits the Imp, which resided over the entrance to the Hall from 1899 to 2001.
Adjacent to the Hall were the old Rector's Lodgings, constructed c1466-70 with money provided by the executors of Bishop Beckington of Bath and Wells. Bishop Beckington's rebus, a beacon in a tun, and his arms are carved on the eastern face of this block and on the south range of the Front Quadrangle. Two of the rooms on the ground floor in the old Lodgings were finely panelled and decorated in the late seventeenth century. The Rector ceased to reside here after the First World War, and the two ground-floor chambers were converted into public rooms known as The Beckington and Williams rooms. The Beckington Room is where the Fellows meet for formal meetings of the Governing Body, including those at which they elect the Rector and celebrate the two ancient Chapter Days of the College, on 6 November and 6 May, when founders and benefactors are remembered.
The greater part of the south range was erected c1480 by the second founder, Bishop Rotherham. Three stone half-angels carved on the wall bear his arms. In the centre of this range is a modern bronze head of John Wesley, modelled on the Roubiliac bust in Westminster Abbey and behind it the Wesley Room, in which Wesley is thought to have resided during the later years of his tenure as a Fellow of the College. It was generously refurbished by American Methodists with fine fifteenth-century linen-fold panelling and eighteenth-century furniture to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Wesley's election to a fellowship in 1726. There are three portraits of Wesley. Over the fireplace is a copy of Romney's famous portrait, in the centre of the east wall Jones's evocative depiction of Wesley in his forties, and next to it a painting by Benjamin West, the American painter who became President of the Royal Academy. In the College's collection held securely elsewhere are some of Lincoln's Wesleyana, principally early editions of his sermons and other writings.