Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Funeral of Mr Edward Comely 1811

On April 11th 1811 a funeral procession made its way up Gray’s Inn Lane (now Road) to the New Burial Ground of the parish of St Andrew’s, Holborn. The burial ground is still there and is St Andrew’s Gardens now.
The funeral was that of Mr Edward Comely who had died five days earlier on the 11th April and it was “performed” by Samuel Page, Undertaker, Auctioneer and Appraiser of 232, High Holborn.
005 funeral
I have not been able to find out anything about Edward Comely, other than to deduce that the scale of his funeral and the fact that he lived in a City parish make it likely that he was in trade, probably a as merchant or shopkeeper. His executor who paid the bill, very promptly, on 18th April, was James Meycock, who was probably the same man who appeared as a plaintiff in a burglary case at the Old Bailey in 1809. He was a haberdasher in Broad Street in the adjacent parish of St Giles.
Under the handsome billhead with its picture of a black-clad woman mourning next to a tomb in a churchyard is the detailed account which paints a vivid picture of the details of an early 19th century funeral. Spelling and capitalization are as given in the invoice.
A Strong Elm Coffin covered with fine Black Serge close drove with double Rows of the best Japanned Nails on a Double Flowered Plate & Urn. 6 large Cherubim Escutcheons with wrought handles sett off and decorated with enriched ornaments chas’d and Blk Japanned in the best manner. Lined and furnished. £5 10s
A fine crape Mattress 12s
A fine Crape Shroud Cap and Pillow 18s
3 [?] with the Ditto 6s
Strong screws making up the Body [of the coffin] 3s
The use of a Handsome velvet Pall 7s
A Hearse and Mourning Coach with Pairs [of horses] each 12s
2 Coachmens Cloaks 2s
2 Hatbands and gloves for Ditto 10s
2 Porters in proper dresses to stand at the door and walk in procession 12s
2 Hatbands and gloves for Ditto 10s
4 men to Bear the Corpse 10s
2 Mourners Cloaks 3s
2 Hatbands for use of Ditto 2s
2 hoods and scarves 4s
A man attending the funeral 5s
A hatband and gloves for Ditto 5s
Gravedigger 5s

This totalled £13 16s but a discount of 13s 6d (for prompt payment perhaps?) was given.
Church service etc £4 7s
Paid to Mr Peckring (the clergyman?) £1 9s
The total bill came to £18 18s 6d

Price comparisons are notoriously difficult to make, but at this time a footman in a great house would expect to earn between £25 and £35 a year.
Catherine Arnold in Necropolis: London and Its Dead notes that undertaking as a specific trade developed in the 18th century, probably as a reflection of changing attitudes towards death by the middle classes who both wanted to show a refined sensibility by displays of mourning and meditation on death and also to reflect their growing wealth and confidence by a fine display.
The coachmen, coffin bearers, porters and the ‘man attending the funeral’ – presumably the funeral director’s representative – must all be correctly attired in black cloaks and gloves, with black bands on their hats and with long black scarves, the hearse would move at walking pace and passers-by would have ample opportunity to admire the coffin, draped in its hired velvet pall.
Mourning for the family and relatives would be another major cost to be considered, although that merits a post of its own. However, until I manage to collect all my images and scan them, here is “Evening Mourning Dress” from Ackermann’s Repository December 1810. The afflicted lady sits all in black and white, mopping her eyes next to a suitably funereal urn. Her jewellery is black jet. Although she has dressed formally for the evening she does not seem to be looking forward to socialising, poor thing.

Mourning 1810 crop

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Banns or Licence? Ways To Marry in Georgian England

After Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 the Georgian couple in England and Wales had three ways of getting married: by banns, by common licence or by special licence. (There was actually a fourth option – to get themselves over the border to Scotland and be married under Scottish law, but I’m leaving the elopements out of this post!)

Bridal Dress. Ackermann’s Repository June 1816

Banns are intended to give anyone an opportunity to declare reasons why a marriage may not go ahead and the requirement for banns goes back to 1215. They must be called on three Sundays before the wedding date in the church of the parish where the couple intend to marry. Since 1823 it has been a requirement to call them in the parish or parishes where the bride and groom are resident if that is not the parish where the wedding will take place.

Banns are fine if you have no objection to the whole parish knowing your business, but you might want more privacy or you might wish to marry in a hurry. The alternative was a common licence, which cost more than banns and this was the option chosen by many people with pretensions to gentility and by anyone who could afford it and who wanted a hasty marriage – for whatever reason.

A common licence could be issued by archbishops, bishops, some archdeacons and ministers in parishes which were ‘peculiars’ (eg St Paul’s cathedral). The 1753 Act required a marriage by licence to take place in a parish where one of the spouses had been resident for at least four weeks, but this was often ignored.

To obtain a licence someone, usually the bridegroom, had to apply at the registry for the appropriate jurisdiction and submit an allegation which was a statement, under oath, that there were no impediments to the marriage. Usually the document included the names, ages, occupations and marital status (single or widowed) of the parties and, if one of them was a minor, it had to name the parent or guardian giving their consent. Sometimes a money bond was provided to back up the allegation.

Allegations, bonds and the licences themselves survive quite rarely. The licence was given to the couple to hand to the clergyman who would perform the marriage and, presumably, they often did not give them back, so I was delighted to find the one shown below.

 

 

Marriage Licence 3
It has a tax stamp in the top left corner for ten shillings (on top of the cost of the licence) and the Archbishop’s seal is suspended in a paper envelope at the bottom. It reads:
Charles, by Divine Providence, Archbishop of CANTERBURY, Primate of all ENGLAND and Metropolitan, by the Authority of Parliament lawfully authorized for the Purposes within written: To our well-beloved in CHRIST,
Curtis Graves of the Parish of Saint Andrew Holborn in the County of Middlesex, Bachelor and Mary Dunn of the same parish a Widow
GRACE and HEALTH. WHEREAS it is alledged [sic] that ye have resolved to proceed to the Solemnization of true and lawful Matrimony and that you greatly desire to cause and obtain that the same may be solemnized in the Face of the Church; We being willing that these your Desires may be the more speedily obtain a due Effect, and to the End thereof, that this Marriage may be publicly and lawfully solemnized in the Parish Church of Saint Andrew Holborn, London by the RECTOR, VICAR or CURATE thereof, without the Publication or Proclamation of the Banns of Matrimony, and at any Time in the Year, provided there shall appear no lawful Impediment in this Case by Reason of any Pre-contract, Consanguinity, Affinity, or any other Cause whatsoever, nor any Suit, Controversy, or Complaint be moved, or now depending before any Judge Ecclesiastical or Civil, for or by Reason thereof; and likewise, That the Celebration of this Marriage be had and done publicly in the aforesaid Church between the Hours of Eight and Twelve in the Forenoon. We for lawful Causes, graciously grant this our Licence and Faculty, as well as to you the Parties contracting as to the RECTOR, VICAR or CURATE of the aforesaid Parish who is designed to solemnize the Marriage between you, in the Manner and Form above specified, according to the Rites of the Book of Common Prayer, set forth for that Purpose by the Authority of Parliament. Provided always, that if in this Case there shall hereafter appear any Fraud suggested to us, or Truth suppressed at the Time of obtaining this Licence, then this Licence to be void and of no Effect in Law, as if the same had never been granted; and in that Case we inhibit all Ministers, if any Thing of the Premises shall come to their Knowledge, that they do not proceed to the Celebration of the said Marriage without first consulting us, or our Commissary of the Faculties. GIVEN under the Seal of our OFFICE OF FACULTIES, this Eighth Day of May in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Five and in the First Year of our Translation.
[Signed] Chas. Moore Regr.
The back has been signed by Chas. Pryce, St Andrews. May 10th 1805 – the day Curtis and Mary were married.

The Archbishop was Charles Manners-Sutton who was Archbishop 1805-28. Charles Moore Esq. who signed it was one of the Principal Registrers [sic] of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and the Revd. Charles Pryce who performed the ceremony was elevated to a Prebendal Chair at Hereford Cathedral in 1814.

Bridal Dress Ackermann's Repository April 1818

Bridal Dress Ackermann’s Repository April 1818

There was also the possibility of marriage with a Special Licence which was very rare. These could only be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury and allowed a marriage to take place anywhere, not just within a place of worship licenced for marriages. A handful were granted each year, usually to members of the upper reaches of the aristocracy.

Ralph Rylance in his Epicure’s Almanac (1815) describes the scene in the Horn Tavern, Godliman Street. This lay between St Paul’s Cathedral and Doctor’s Commons, which was where the lawyers practicing civil and ecclesiastical law were based and was the easiest place to get a licence for those living in London.
‘…the fond expectant bridegroom sips his soup or savoury jelly, waiting for his licence, which is to be obtained from the Prerogative Court. This soup, jelly, and licence, form the prelude to his occupancy of his (perhaps) equally important bride. Good easy man! He little thinks that the licence aforesaid is to rob him of his liberty for and during the remainder of his, the aforesaid bride-groom’s life.’

Parisian Evening Bridal Dress La Belle Assemblee October 1819

Parisian Evening Bridal Dress La Belle Assemblee October 1819

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Filed under Fashions, Love and Marriage