In the Regency, common law marriages, which the Hardwicke Act outlawed in England and Wales, were still possible in Scotland. As such, the border towns of Scotland became famous for providing these marriages. No ceremony was required, and anyone could officiate, if so desired.
The most famous of the marriage border towns was Gretna Green. Weddings are still a thriving business in Gretna Green. The two pictures above are Gretna Green then (left) and now. Gretna Green also has its own website. http://www.gretnagreen.com/cms/
Gretna Green was not the only place for irregular marriages. Other towns, especially in the Eastern Borders of Scotland, also performed quick marriages. While Gretna Green was the destination of choice in the west, these next towns are in east Scotland.
Lamberton, Berwickshire was the most popular of the eastern destinations, since it’s the first Scottish town reached via the Great North Road, the main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh. The toll-keepers provided the marriages at the Old Toll House. Here’s a picture of the Old Toll House in 1890.
The toll-keepers at Paxton and Mordington, other border towns near Lamberton, and also close to the Great North Road, also performed marriages.
Another town is Coldstream, Scottish Borders. The couple would cross the river Tweed using the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland to Coldstream. As in the other towns, the Toll
House, here called the Marriage House, on the Scottish side of the bridge provided common law marriages. Coldstream figures in my Regency Christmas story, Mistletoe Everywhere.
Who performed these marriages? Anyone who wanted to. Two people need only declare themselves married before two witnesses to be married. Thriving businesses provided a marriage ceremony of sorts, with witnesses and a clergyman, if desired, officiating. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.
Various laws in the early 1800’s changed and restricted these marriages, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_Act), but many of these towns continued their clandestine wedding business almost up to the twentieth century. Nowadays, the most famous, like Gretna Green and Coldstream, still trade on their history as they provide legal marriages.
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