Both the British government and the church had an interest in record keeping, and a 1538 act of Parliament required ministers in the Church of England to record baptisms, marriages, and burials. In 1754, Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 went into effect, requiring a formal ceremony be performed by Anglican clergy in the parish of one of the participants following the publication of banns and in the presence of two witnesses. (There were exemptions allowed for Jewish and Quaker marriages.) In 1837, civil registration began, which removed many of the restrictions imposed by Hardwicke’s Act. This database includes parish records with dates ranging from 1754 up until 1914.
Couples were usually married in the bride’s parish. Marriage records typically include the bride and groom’s names, residence, date and location of the marriage, names of witnesses, condition (bachelor, spinster, widow, or widower) and the name of the officiant. Some records may also include the father’s name and occupation. The early records may contain less detail.
Marriage Bonds and Allegations
Marriage bonds and allegations were drawn up when an application for a marriage licence was made. When applying for a licence the groom would have to swear that there were no impediments to the marriage. This document was known as a marriage allegation. They usually record names, ages, occupations, residences, condition (eg. Bachelor, spinster) and the proposed location of the wedding. Marriage bonds were sworn statements containing assurances by friends or relatives that there were no reasons why the marriage shouldn’t take place.
See the browse on the right to determine which parishes are included in this collection and the date coverage for each parish.
Please note that these images cannot be re-published or distributed without the permission of South West Heritage Trust.