Mr Claud Mullens [sic]

Claud-Mullins SQ 300x300
Claud Mullins © National Portrait Gallery[1]
Claud Mullins, 45, (1887-1968) was a reforming North London magistrate and author, bad tempered and often ahead of his time. A founder of the Marriage Guidance Council he promoted innovative ideas with respect to marital law and argued for magistrates to be trained in social help as well as law. Nor was he afraid to criticise Margaret Rhondda and her Six-Point friends, saying how their enthusiasm for equality (of responsibilities of parents in this case) would lead to the wholesale neglect of children. Not surprisingly his granddaughter’s biography of him was entitled “Rebel, Reformer, Reactionary”.

Seated Beside…

Most likely alongside his wife Gwen, expecting their third child, and then it could be either James Drawbell or Anabel Douglas. Hopefully he wasn’t at his curmudgeonly best, or worst, though I’m sure they were all up for some sparring in debate.

What’s On His Mind?

Did he come with enthusiasm to this celebration of the life of Margaret Rhondda? Did he have a lighter side? He might well have had a recent injustice to discuss with his fellow guests.

Claud’s Story So Far

Claud William Mullins (at times spelt Mullens, including on the dinner guest list) was born on 6th September 1887 at 17 Southampton Street, London, the eldest of the four children of Edwin Roscoe Mullins (1848 -1907), [2] a prominent Victorian sculptor, and his wife, Alice (1856 -1935), daughter of John Pelton JP, a successful Croydon grocer. He had to leave Mill Hill School due to his father’s illness, travelled in Europe, before becoming a clerk in the London County Council in 1907. He read for the bar, was awarded a certificate of honour in the bar finals, and was called by Gray’s Inn in 1913.

War interrupted his career, his plans to set up a practice were unsuccessful, so he took to writing: with a book about London in 1920 “London’s Story”; in 1921 closer to his professional interests “The Leipzig Trials” (H. F. & G. Witherby); and in 1931 publishing “In Quest of Justice”, (John Murray), a book critical of much of English law. He became a Freemason in October 1921.[3] He was appointed a Metropolitan Police magistrate on 29th June 1931 and a trawl through the archives of The Times will yield a strong of pithy reports typical of a magistrate with an eye for a reputation, whether jailing “Dance Hall ‘terrorists’ ”[4] or rebuking someone cheeky enough to ask for reimbursement of a fine, the late payment of which had got him out of jail.[5] By the time of the dinner, he was making a name for himself, albeit not without controversy particularly with respect to marital law. He felt matrimonial disputes should not be regarded solely as matters of law, and that magistrates should be trained to provide social help as well. In 1932 one such approach, a few months prior to the dinner was reported as follows:

“JUSTICE: THE 1932 WAY A further innovation in methods of dealing with estranged couples was made by Mr Claud Mullens, the North London Magistrate. He offered to see the parties in his private room and try to effect a reconciliation. “If I fail,” he said, “the case must come before a colleague. It could not be tried by me.” Both parties’ solicitors accepted the offer”.[6]

His ideas weren’t fully taken up though reforms did at least humanise domestic hearings, not least by distinguishing them from criminal proceedings. But regarded as having a tendency for self-promotion, he was censured in 1936 and publicly rebuked by Herbert Morrison in 1942.

It is amusing to note one letter he wrote to The Times, back in 1924, with the respect to the equality of parents, in a scathing riposte to a letter by Winifred Mayo (also at the dinner) then in her role as Organising Secretary of Margaret Rhondda’s Six Point Group, which he says “Its members are obviously obsessed with the idea of sex equality and have never considered the partial effects of the revolutionary changes in our domestic legislation that they so rashly propose. All co-equal responsibilities are bad, and, however much the “Six Point Group” may enthuse over “equal rights” the result is going to be wholesale neglect of the children. This is rather a large price to pay for pleasing a body of lady politicians who are more expert at electioneering than in the laws which they seek to amend”. He probably got their attention at the time but it is easy to see how he might have ruffled more than a few feathers throughout his career.

At this time he was living at 14 Burgheath Road Epson, with his wife Gwen and their two daughters.

What Claud Did Next

A recent biography by his granddaughter Emma Dally, drawing on unpublished letters and diaries, entitled Rebel, Reformer, Reactionary, perhaps not surprisingly recollects a rather bad-tempered old man, whilst also noting he was in many ways ahead of his time. The so-called “Marriage Mender” and a founder of the Marriage Guidance Council also had difficult relationship problems of his own.[7] But since when was it easy to practice what one preaches.[8] [9] [10]

Claud died in Chichester in December 1968.


[1] Claud Mullins by Elliott & Fry, bromide print, NPG x90695, © National Portrait Gallery, London

[2] S. E. Fryer, revised by Emma Hardy, Mullins, Edwin Roscoe, (1848–1907), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP

[3] Ancestry Source: United Grand Lodge of England Member Registers

[4] The Times, 12.10.1932

[5] The Times, 3.8.1932

[6] Justice: the 1932 way, Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 29.10.1932

[7] Emma Dally, Claud Mullins, Rebel, Reformer, Reactionary, Hornbeam Press, Troubador Publishing Limited, 2010

[8] S.M. Cretney, Claud William Mullins, 1887 – 1968, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP, 6th January 2011 revision

[9] Lawrence Goldman (ed), Dally (née Mullins), Ann Gwendolen, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2005-2008, OUP

[10] William Matthews (ed), British Autobiographies: An annotated bibliography, University of California Press, 1984, entry for Claud Mullins [sic] “Fifteen Years Hard Labour”, 1948

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