Saturday, 17 October 2009

Irregular Marriages / Gretna Green

Gretna Green's "anvil priests" were a colorful set of characters who setup shop in hostelries and Coaching inns in the village of Gretna Green and made their living from the marriage trade. The most famous of these venues being The World Famous Old Blacksmiths Shop.

Many Gretna Green Anvil Priests had other occupations - blacksmith, fisherman, weaver, saddler - none of them had any 'qualifications' to perform marriages and used Scotland's marriage laws as a way of earning extra money.

Some of the more unsavoury Gretna Green anvil priests moved to Gretna Green from London after Lord Hardwicke's act put them out of a job by making the irregular marriage trade illegal in England.

To perform a marriage, the anvil priest simply asked the couple to plight their troth in front of two witnesses, and, quick as the bang of a hammer on an anvil, their word was law. If a couple had come unaccompanied, the anvil priest would often knock on a neighbour's door to ask them to come and serve as a witness.

If word came that the angry father was fast approaching Gretna Green and there was a risk of the marriage being interrupted, the anvil priest - so the story goes - told the lovers to nip into bed. When the pursuer arrived, he was shown to the bedroom. On seeing the couple in the bed, he assumed he was too late, as the marriage was well on the way to being consummated.

If you think one(or more) of your ancestors was married in this way,please visit the forum

Where we have several look-ups available for irregular border marriages.

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