Non-Christian Religious Bodies

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1979.

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'Non-Christian Religious Bodies', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford, (London, 1979) pp. 425. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

In this section


JEWS. (fn. 1)

Jews or converted Jews taught Hebrew in the university from the late 16th century onwards, but the first Jew to set up business in the town after the Middle Ages was probably the Jacob who opened Oxford's first coffee-house in 1651. (fn. 2) Other Jews were occasionally recorded in the later 17th century, and in the 18th century there seems to have been a small community in the town. (fn. 3) A synagogue was reputedly opened c. 1841, and was presumably served by the 'rabbi', Aaron Jacob, who was killed in a fire in St. Ebbe's Street in 1844. (fn. 4) In that year, however, a Jewish wedding took place in a garden in Queen Street. (fn. 5) In 1845 the congregation comprised four householders (Ba'ale Batim) and 20 individuals. (fn. 6) The synagogue seems to have moved c. 1848 to a room in Paradise Square where 10 people attended on census day 1851. (fn. 7) That synagogue seems to have closed c. 1853 and was not replaced until one was opened in St. Aldate's in 1871. (fn. 8) From 1878 to 1893 the synagogue was in Worcester Place, (fn. 9) but the congregation was small, and by 1893 it was said to have fallen into 'an irreverent old age' from which it was rescued by a small group of undergraduates. A new synagogue, a converted lecture room in Richmond Road (formerly Worcester Terrace), was opened in 1893. (fn. 10)

The Jewish community in Oxford remained small until the influx of German refugees in 1938. During the Second World War numbers reached c. 3,000, and two or three local congregations were formed. Numbers fell sharply after the war, but began to increase again in the 1950s. (fn. 11) In 1972 the old synagogue was demolished, and a new building and student centre on the same site, for all denominations of Jews, was opened in 1974. (fn. 12)


The Oxford Mosque Society was founded in 1952 when there were c. 40 Moslems in the city. (fn. 13) A small mosque in a basement in Walton Street was opened in 1954, (fn. 14) but until 1968, when a converted warehouse in Bath Street was opened as a mosque, major ceremonies for the growing Moslem population of the city were held in the town hall. An imam was appointed in 1972. (fn. 15)

Abdul-Baha, son of the founder of the Baha'i faith, lectured in Oxford in 1912 but it was not until 1948 that Oxford had resident Baha'is. The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is at Oxford was incorporated as an unlimited company in 1962, and met in private houses in 1972. (fn. 16)


  • 1. This section was written in 1974. For the medieval Jewry see above, Medieval Oxf. (Econ. Hist.).
  • 2. C. Roth, 'Jews in Oxf. after 1290', Oxoniensia, xv. 63-9; Wood's Life, i. 168-9.
  • 3. Oxoniensia, xv. 17-2; Bodl. MS. Oxf. Dioc. d 571, ff. 37-8.
  • 4. C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry, 90; Oxf. Jnl. 2 Mar. 1844.
  • 5. Bodl. G. A. Oxon. b 112 (210): newspaper cutting.
  • 6. Jewish Chron. 23 July 1847; V. D. Lipman, 'Survey of Anglo-Jewry in 1851', Trans. Jewish Hist. Soc. xvii. 171-88: refs. supplied by Dr. D. M. Lewis.
  • 7. H.O. 129/158.
  • 8. J. J. Moore, Historical Handbk. to Oxf. (1871), 12, 216: copy in Westgate Libr.
  • 9. Oxoniensia, xv. 80 n.
  • 10. Jewish Chron. 3 Feb. 1893.
  • 11. Ex inf. Dr. Lewis.
  • 12. Ibid.; Oxf. Mail, 29 Apr. 1974.
  • 13. Ex inf. Mr. Ahmad Bullock, the Imam.
  • 14. Oxf. Mail, 20 Mar. 1961.
  • 15. Ibid. 10 May 1963, 24 Jan. 1966, 9 Aug. 1968, 1 Nov. 1972.
  • 16. Ibid. 4 Jan. 1963; ex inf. Mr. P. Jenkerson, secretary to the Spiritual Assembly.