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The St. Thomas area of Oxford, circa 1947

The St. Thomas area of Oxford, circa 1947

A religious cult is hounded out of Oxford

In 1825, many men in Oxford fell under the spell of a fanatical evangelist whose preaching urged them to leave their wives.

The preacher in question was a man named Mr. Muloch Esq, who was apparently educated at the University of Oxford before dedicating himself to spreading his own hardline brand of Christianity.

A Doctrine of Separation

The most controversial element of his teachings was what the Oxford Journal referred to as his 'doctrine of separation', which argued that marriage was in fact against the wishes of God and urged men to abandon their wives and families in order to dedicate themselves more fully to religion.

Mr. Muloch was apparently very persuasive. Within the space of ten days in late September and early October 1925, no fewer than three men in Oxford left their families at the urging of Mr. Muloch!

When news of these abandonments spread throughout the Oxford population, they were met with outrage.

A riot in west Oxford

At a meeting of Mr. Muloch's followers in St. Thomas Street on 6 October 1825, an angry crowd, sympathetic to the women who had been abandoned by their husbands, burst into the house where the meeting was taking place and began wrecking the place.

Windows, doors and furniture were destroyed, and when the attendees fled the house they were 'hooted through the streets and assailed with all sorts of mud and filth, their clothes torn and their features so much disfigured as to render it difficult to recognise them'!

Some of the fleeing men were obliged to take shelter in the Town Hall until the fuss had died down and the angry mob dispersed.

One person notably absent during these scenes was Mr. Muloch himself! Perhaps he had already realised that the tide of public opinion had turned against him?

Mr. Muloch defends himself

A few weeks later a long letter written by Mr. Muloch was published in various local papers in which he attempted to defend his position while also lashing out violently at his opponents, accusing them of 'filthy falsehoods' and 'abominable lies'. Muloch argued that he didn't encourage all men to leave their wives, only those who differed from their husbands in matters of piety, or who refused to show their husbands appropriate 'reverence and obedience'.

His arguments did not convince the journalist from The Englishman providing commentary on Muloch's letter, who described Muloch as 'pugnacious and bitter in the extreme ... fierce and foul-mouthed' and cast doubt on Muloch's claim to have the support of the foreign secretary Mr. George Canning!

Life after Oxford

Although Mr. Muloch's popularity in Oxford appears to have wained after this incident, his religious zeal was not diminished. Four years later, the Liverpool Mercury reported that the notorious Mr. Muloch was now living in the vicinity of Stoke-on-Trent and self-publishing a biting weekly newsletter called The Public Inquirer.

He used his new publication to lash out at a wide range of targets, including the Bishops of Oxford, Llandaff, Lichfield and Coventry, the Duke of Wellington, Robert Peel and the entire population of Scotland!

Find out more

  1. Oxford Journal, 8 October 1825
  2. Berkshire Chronicle, 15 October 1825
  3. The Englishman, 6 November 1825
  4. Liverpool Mercury, 1 May 1829
  5. 'A Grim Almanac of Oxfordshire' by Nicola Sly (The History Press, 2013, ISBN: 978752465814)

St. Thomas Street, Oxford

Region: Oxford City

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