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  1. #1

    Default Marriage law - have I missed something?

    My understanding of the law concerning an ordinary common or garden marriage after banns in 1839 is that it should have taken place in the parish where one or other of the parties lived. Regular readers will be familiar with the trancripts of various relevant Acts which our fellow forum member, Guy Etchells, has helpfully provided on his web site. I have read through these, and failed to spot anything which contradicted my belief.

    Exceptions are made for extraparochial places. In 1823 we find that exceptions are also made for churches that are temporarily shut due to rebuilding or repair. In both cases, though, we find that the marriage is instead to take place in an adjoining parish or chapelry.

    Both parties to this marriage lived at Kelvedon Common, Essex. Kelvedon Common, not to be confused with (nearby) Kelvedon Hatch or (miles away) plain Kelvedon, is part of the parish of Doddinghurst. As usual, somebody couldn't spell, but the line for the groom has "Kelvdon Common" with "Essex" underneath, and the line for the bride has "Kelvdon Common" - that's plain enough! It is at Kelvedon Common, Doddinghurst, that we find them living on the 1841 census, and the bride's mother was buried at Chipping Ongar, not a million miles away, in 1837, with her abode given as "High Ongar", so it does not appear that the bride has moved very far on account of her marriage.

    There is nothing iffy about the marriage. From baptism records, the groom would have been about 42 and the bride about 39, so this is not some young pair sneaking off somewhere. Neither of them had been married before, so nobody's run off from a partner for a bigamous second marriage. Knowing the family history and reading between the lines, I suspect that they got married simply to provide more of a "family" atmosphere for the groom's nine year-old niece - her mother had died, her father promptly did a runner, and she's with this couple in 1841. They had no children of their own, and from the fellow's will, it looks as though they treated her as a daughter.


  2. #2



    Neither is there anything odd about the parish of Doddinghurst that I can see - it's a proper parish, with a proper parish church, where marriages have taken place since the year dot. I do not, however, know the intimate history of every church in Essex, so let us allow for the fact that in 1839 the church at Doddinghurst may, for some reason, have been temporarily out of use, OK?

    By no stretch of the imagination can the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel, in east London (Middlesex) be classed as an "adjoining Parish or Chapelry" !

    I can see *why* it took place there - nearly all the groom's family were then living in that neck of the woods, bit of a pain for them (especially his 65 year-old widowed mother) to have to trundle about 18 miles out to the back of beyond for a wedding in Doddinghurst, but, as they have both given their true address instead of using one of the rellies' addresses to pretend that at least one of them was living in Whitechapel, surely it should *not* have taken place in Whitechapel.

    Or have I missed something?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mythology
    My understanding of the law concerning an ordinary common or garden marriage after banns in 1839 is that it should have taken place in the parish where one or other of the parties lived.
    I was married in a Parish in which neither I or my husband lived. It was the parish where I was a regular worshipper and on the parish Register. I think there was a need for a certain number of attendances a year. This meant that I had to have banns called in three Parishes: The Parish my husband to be lived in; the Parish I lived in and the Parish we married in.
    Of course this was a lot later than 1839 (1974) so this option may not have been available to your couple.

  4. #4


    "this was a lot later than 1839 (1974) so this option may not have been available to your couple."

    As far as I can see, having read through the relevant Acts, it was not.
    Section II of the 18 July 1823 Act seems quite specific in this respect, stating that the banns must be published in "the Parish Church, or in some Public Chapel, in which Chapel Banns of Matrimony may now or may hereafter be lawfully published, of or belonging to such Parish or Chapelry wherein the Persons to be married shall dwell".
    It then says that if "the Persons to be married shall dwell in divers Parishes or Chapelries, the Banns shall in like Manner be published in the Church or in any such Chapel as aforesaid belonging to such Parish or Chapelry wherein each of the said Persons shall dwell" which, unless I am misinterpreting it, allows for marriage in the parish of either party, but not a completely different parish.
    It then says "the Marriage shall be solemnized in one of the Parish Churches or Chapels where such Banns shall have been published, and in no other Place whatsoever."

    And I can see nothing between then and 1839 which says any different.

    Hence the question "Have I missed something?"

  5. #5


    A passing thought, but have you checked the banns registers to confirm that banns were read - and if so, where?

    Could the Vicar/Curate, or whomever have made a mistake and should have written licence??

    Maybe the Vicar/Curate was not fully with it or happy to bend the rules, saw a certificate of banns and just accepted it?


  6. #6


    " ... have you checked ... "

    Not as yet, Geoffers. Like a lot of mine, this one's been shoved into my memory and then left sleeping in peace in the pile of photocopies for years. It was only when I went to type it up today that it dawned on me that something was amiss, so I thought I'd make sure my understanding of the law was correct before I set off on what would be an unnecessary chase if I was wrong.

    "Maybe the Vicar/Curate was not fully with it or happy to bend the rules ...."
    Err ... yes, I have to admit that, knowing my lot, my first thought was "I'll bet somebody's palm was crossed with silver here."

  7. #7


    Following up on your banns registers idea, though - good news and bad on survival.
    Whitechapel - yes, at LMA, and I expect to be there on Tuesday.
    Doddinghurst - no, nothing before 1893, shame those last two figures aren't the other way around.

  8. #8


    And the news from the glorious parish of St Mary, Whitechapel, is ....

    We seem to have a vicar who couldn't give two hoots.

    My couple are in the banns book with the groom's middle name omitted and, as seems to have been the practice there, with no indication whatsoever of where they were allegedly living.
    The marriage is 14 October 1839 (banns 29 September, 6 October, 13 October), so I figured that it would be a fair sample to just quickly check the whole of the October 1839 marriages in the register, see if there were other marriages by banns where *both* parties were outsiders, and see whether or not they, too, were in the banns book.
    8 October - both parties Limehouse.
    15 October - both parties Chelmsford
    19 October - both parties Ockendon
    21 October - both parties Wapping
    28 October - groom Hornchurch, bride Romford
    28 October (again) - both parties Romford

    All six of these are, like my one, in the banns book just as if they were locals.

    I expect the vicar was advertising in the east London and Essex papers - "Get married at Whitechapel, no questions asked if you sign up to our special inclusive wedding reception deals, top-quality catering at competitive prices by my good wife and daughters."

    Last edited by Mythology; 12-10-2005 at 1:43 PM. Reason: Opyt

  9. #9


    I suppose that because Whitechapel was on the main route in and out of London from Essex, every time your couple went on one of their jaunts to see the bright lights, they thought 'What a lovely church - let's get married there' - so they did, and obviously told all their friends out in the sticks

    Best wishes

  10. #10


    Many a true word is spoken in jest ......

    Back in the 1700s, this fellow's grandfather ran a coach service from Romford (later extended to run from Upminster) via Ilford to London, stopping at Whitechapel and terminating at Aldgate.

    I have an awful lot of London marriages for this Essex lot. One fellow seems to have got totally lost, he married in Colchester, but for the others, although St Mary Whitechapel is favourite, we also have St Botolph Aldgate, St Botolph Bishopsgate, St Katherine Cree, St Dunstan Stepney and St George in the East.

    My theory is that the family had a system. As there is evidence of some pretty strong minded women in the family, this applied to either sex.
    1) Select your victim. The intended partner should be someone from a family who are sufficiently well-off that you will benefit from the marriage, but not so well-off as to shrug their shoulders at the loss of 500.
    2) Using your family allocation of free tickets on the coach to London, take the intended there for a day trip. The chances are that they will not have been to London before, so will be totally confused by all the hustle and bustle.
    3) Take them for a stroll around the metropolis - it doesn't matter where, you'd be hard pushed to walk around for an hour or so and not pass a few churches.
    4) When the victim says "Ooh - that's a nice church!", sieze the moment, take advantage of their confusion, say "OK - let's get married there then, shall we?" and whip out the pre-printed standard family marriage agreement for them to sign. Be careful to keep your thumb over the small print reading "I promise to pay the bearer 500 if I change my mind."
    5) When you get back home and the victim's parents throw a fit, reveal the hidden clause, and ask them if they wish to bale their son/daughter out.

    All of a sudden, you will find that their objections are withdrawn, you are then free to marry and (from the amount of census returns where the partners turn up in different places) once the necessary son & heir has arrived, you may then go your own sweet way having a whale of a time, leaving the victim hidden away in obscurity somewhere.

    Simple, really, isn't it?
    Last edited by Mythology; 12-10-2005 at 3:20 PM.

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