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PropPete
29-07-2007, 7:42 PM
I've read somewhere that George Ellis, rector of Wetheringsett in the late 19th century, was an impostor. When he was found out, he was imprisoned and Parliament quickly made a law to validate the marriages he had officiated. I've since discovered that he was rector in 1888, but can find no further details. Some of my ancestors were married in that parish around that time, and I'm curious to know if any of their marriages had to be validated by an Act of Parliament! Does anyone know if the story is true, and know his period of office?

Mythology
29-07-2007, 9:02 PM
"he was rector in 1888"

Only just.
"The Times" of 29 March 1888 has a long report about him appearing the previous day at Eye Petty Sessions.
I have not read it properly, but it all looks rather complex - he's been all over the place before Wetheringsett - and there's a reference to him having "solemnized many marriages, but the charge could only be brought in respect of those which had taken place during the last three years."

There's also a bit in which Mr. Moseley (for the prosecution, on behalf of the Treasury) says that "Although the prisoner was charged with solemnizing a number of marriages without being in holy orders, he might say there was reason to believe all such marriages were perfectly legal."
Whether Mr. Mosley is correct or not, I have no idea, but it does make the Act of Parliament idea look a bit doubtful.

There's another report in the 11 July issue, when he appears at Bury Assizes and gets seven years.

I didn't experiment with anything other than "Wetheringsett" in the search, and OCR sometimes needs a bit of creative thinking to dig everything out, so you may be able to find other reports as well as those two if you try harder than I did.

PropPete
30-07-2007, 10:51 AM
Well, the story appears to be true. Where did you find reports? Was it The Times Digital Archive?

Mythology
30-07-2007, 11:43 AM
Indeed. It struck me that it might be sufficiently newsworthy to make the nationals, so, as we know he didn't get done before 1888, I just stuck "Wetheringsett" in the search, dates 1888 to umm... I think I used 1895... and it came up with about a dozen results, two of which were relevant. :)