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Marriage Places 1754-1837

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AdrianBruce
Posts: 174
Joined: 14 Jun 2020, 18:57
Location: South Cheshire

Marriage Places 1754-1837

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Many of us will already have heard of Hardwicke's Marriage Act (for England & Wales) that came into force in 1754. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clandesti ... s_Act_1753. In order to prevent badly documented / clandestine marriages, the Act laid down that marriages could only take place in Church of England parish churches, the only exceptions being those for Jews and Quakers - these exceptions had nothing to do with tolerance and everything to do with the fact that those two groups had shown themselves to be exemplary record keepers.

As a result, in that time period, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc, etc, all had to go to a CofE church to be married. Many of you, as I said, will realise this already.

What's slightly less obvious is that the Act affected many Church of England congregations as well. The key is that marriages could only take place in Church of England parish churches. If you lived near to a CofE chapel where all your relatives had been baptised, married and maybe even buried before - you could no longer go to that chapel to be married - instead you had to travel further, to the parish church. I have seen many times in message lists, pleas for the identification of the marriage of someone's ancestors who lived in one town. The poster can only find a couple of the same names in another town - and the explanation is very often that the town of residence only had a chapel, whereas the place of marriage contained the parish church.

Some places that were quite large or important were affected by this - in Cheshire, the silk town of Macclesfield only had a chapel for many years and residents of Macc had to get over to Prestbury to be married. It's only some 3 miles but if, as a researcher, you're not expecting it...

Incidentally, a number of chapels, perhaps especially those in urban areas, were explicitly licensed for marriages, so that's yet another exception to the expectation of Hardwicke's Act. For instance, in Cheshire, the chapel of St. Helen at Witton (Northwich) was licensed for marriages so that people didn't need to walk the 3 miles to the parish church at Great Budworth.
Adrian Bruce

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AdrianBruce
Posts: 174
Joined: 14 Jun 2020, 18:57
Location: South Cheshire

Re: Marriage Places 1754-1837

Post by AdrianBruce »

Just to be clear - the difference between "church" and "chapel" (more properly "chapel of ease") in the Church of England, is that each parish only has one parish church. In order to save people walking too far, one or more chapels (of ease) could be constructed in a parish.

Sometimes construction of a chapel was a matter of conspicuous consumption, as merchants, etc, would pay for the construction of such a building. It was not unknown for chapels to be both bigger and better than their "mother" parish church.
Adrian Bruce

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