Marriage Bonds and Allegations

I always find it fascinating how much information can be found in a single source, how it can add to what we already know about an individual and the time in which they lived.

The source I am going to concentrate on for this blog is the ‘London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations. 1597-1921, which can be found in the London Metropolitan Archives.

I will explore what they can tell us and how they can be used in conjunction with census records and the marriage certificate.

Before Civil Registration began in 1837 most people married by banns or license, as was required by law. As part of the process for requesting a license a written allegation had to be provided. This stated the couple’s intent to marry and that there were no legal obstacles to prevent the marriage taking place. Between 1604 and 1823 the allegation was made sure by a bond. Two witnesses, one usually the groom, swore to the bond. If the claims of the allegation proved to be false, then the bond would be forfeit. After 1823 marriage bonds were no longer made.

The Marriage Bonds and Allegations often exist as they remained with the authority who issued it, whereas the license was given to a member of the wedding party to give to the officiant at the ceremony. Although it must be remembered that the existence of the marriage allegation only means that a license was applied for it does not guarantee that the marriage took place.

On 8th June 1881 Arthur George Dilley married Elizabeth Jane Ashton in St. James parish church Westminster. On the marriage certificate it states that Arthur was of full age (21) and Elizabeth was a minor. Arthur was actually 27 and Elizabeth was 20. At the time of their marriage both of their fathers were deceased. The marriage certificate states that the groom’s place of residence when he married was the parish of St. James, whilst Elizabeth’s parish of residence was St. Mary’s, Huntingdon.  The witnesses at the wedding were Arthur Ashton and James Ashton. Evidence in the 1861 census indicates that they may be Elizabeth’s brothers.

The marriage allegation was sworn on the 7th June 1881. I have extracted the main points from the document, and these are summarised below.  

Arthur George Dilley ‘appeared personally’.

He declared he was ‘a bachelor of the age of twenty- one years and upwards’ and he ‘prayed a License for the solemnization of matrimony in the said parish church of Saint James, Piccadilly between him and Elizabeth Jane Ashton’.

The allegation states her place of residence as ‘St. Mary’s Huntingdon’ she was a ‘spinster minor of the age of twenty years and upwards but under the age of twenty- one years’.

Arthur also ‘made oath that he believeth that there is no impediment of kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful causes, nor any Suit commenced in any Ecclesiastical Court to bar or hinder the Proceeding of the said Matrimony, according to the tenor of such Licence’.

Arthur went on to confirm that he ‘hath had his usual Place of abode within the said Parish of Saint James Piccadilly for the space of Fifteen days last past’.

Arthur also swore that he had ‘the consent of Margaret Ashton widow’ who was ‘the natural and lawful mother of the said minor and the trustworthy Guardian’.

He further swore that Margaret had been so appointed in the ‘last will and testament of James Ashton deceased’. Whilst he had been living, he was the ‘natural and lawful father of the said minor’ and permission ‘hath been obtained to the said intended marriage’.  

Although the marriage allegation and marriage certificate reveal a lot of valuable information about the families, as detailed, they also pose an important question.

On his father’s death Arthur had continued running the family auction business, Dilley and Son, in Huntingdon. In the 1881 census, only a few months prior to the marriage allegation, Arthur was recorded as living in the Market Place, Huntingdon with his mother, Martha. Elizabeth was also recorded as living with her mother, Margaret, in The Walks, Huntingdon. Her late father, James, had been a respected businessman in Huntingdon, just as Arthur’s father, James had.

So, I wonder why they married by license in London? Was St. James, Piccadilly, Westminster, a more fashionable place to marry? If their marriage had taken place in Huntingdon, it certainly would have attracted a lot of local attention, as the groom and his bride came from well-known and respected families. Perhaps we shall never know!

The Marriage Bonds and Allegations used here came from ‘London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations. 1597-1921, LMA’

Arthur George Dilley and Elizabeth Jane Ashton Marriage Certificate
Arthur George Dilley

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