In 1833 the English prime minister warned the country's bishops 'to set their house in order'. Though he did not complete the quotation from the Old Testament book of Kings, others did: 'for thou shall die'. A mob in Bristol burned down the bishop's residence, and Or Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, wrote, 'the church as it now stands, no human power can save'. Some years earlier in London, only six people had attended Easter Communion in St Paul's Cathedral.

The Church of England was ripe for a new movement, and in 1833 she got it; the leaders were to be called - as well as other things less complimentary - Tractarians'.

Beginnings

In July 1833JohnKeble,a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, preached the annual assize sermon. He called it 'National Apostasy', and particularly attacked a Bill before parliament to make half the Irish bishops redundant. Those present can have had little idea that the sermon heralded a movement which was to have a revolutionary effect on church life in Britain.

Ten days after Ihe assize sermon, four men met at Hadleigh Rectory in Suffolk to make proposals for action. John Keble, undoubtedly the founder of what became known as the Oxford Movement, was not among them. But one of his disciples-Richard Froude - was. In the short time before his death three years later, Froude did something which was to be crucial in the development of the Movement. He converted a young Fellow of Oriel College from evangelical to high church views. His name was John Henry Newman, and he was to become the Oxford Movement's most famous leader, ultimately joining the Roman Catholic Church and becoming a cardinal.

The four who met at Hadleigh took an important decision: to issue some pamphlets which they called Tracts for ...

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