Tag Archives: Georgian marriage

St George’s Hanover Square – and Its Remarkable Neighbour, Trinity Chapel

 

A marriage between the aristocratic hero and his true love in St George’s Hanover Square forms the climax of many a romantic historical novel, and I’ve used that scene myself. The church, completed in 1724, was built to serve the new and expanding residential area between Piccadilly and Tyburn or Oxford Road (now Oxford Street). These handsome streets and squares were a magnet for the upper classes in Society and handsome St George’s was the perfect place to be married or to have your children baptised. The 5th Earl of Jersey, husband of Lady Jersey one of the famous Patronesses of Almack’s, was a churchwarden here, although their marriage was a private one by special licence in their Berkeley Square house.

In a detail from John Roque’s map of 1747 (below) the new church sits with Burlington House to the South and Berkley (as it was then spelled) Square to the South West.

True, it is not in Hanover Square at all, but on the East side of George Street and its position gives the West front a cramped outlook, almost but not quite, looking down Maddox Street. The view at the top of the post (1812, from Ackermann’s Repository) is probably the best angle, then and now.

It is sometimes easy to forget that the occupants of these fashionable squares, great mansions and elegant terraces were serviced by a multitude of tradesmen, servants and labourers, all of whom ‘lived in’ with their employers or set up shop close by or who lodged within easy walking distance of their employment. St George’s was their church too and in between the glamorous christenings and marriages the humbler parishioners were in and out, tying the knot, naming their babies and being buried.

This was brought home to me by discovering my great-great-great grandfather James Wood marrying Mary Baldwin at St George’s. This was a surprise – James was a humble labourer turned chair mender and caner from Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire. What was he doing in London, let alone getting married in Mayfair? Then I discovered that he was a ‘servant’ (no idea what kind) of the Earl of Bridgewater whose country house was at Ashridge, close to Berkhamstead. The Earl had a London home in Albemarle Street (bottom, centre on the map), so presumably James Wood was there serving his employer in some capacity.

After that discovery ancestors marrying or having children baptised at St George’s in the 18th and early 19th century started appearing in large numbers – all from the concentration of piano makers in Marylebone, just North of Oxford Street. Possibly St George’s was seen as an aspirational place to be married because the Marylebone piano key makers, piano string makers, piano striker coverers and occasional dolls’ eyes makers did have other options in the various chapels of ease that had been built to help ease the pressure on the churches in these new and crowded districts.

One of those chapels  can be seen on the map on Conduit Street facing up George Street. This was Trinity Chapel and had one of the strangest histories of any London place of worship. A Chapel of Ease was a chapel either built before a parish church was in existence or added later to take the strain in a very large or crowded parish. This one started life as a moveable Roman Catholic chapel on wheels used by King James II. After he fled the country in 1688 to be replaced by William and Mary, the chapel was abandoned on Hounslow Heath where James had abdicated. Probably he took mass there in one of his last acts as king. It was transported to Conduit Street and turned into an Anglican Chapel of Ease on the initiative of Archbishop Tenison. Later it was acquired by bookseller and High Bailiff of Westminster James Robson, who had it demolished and rebuilt in brick, but because it was on leasehold land it was not eligible to be a parish church, hence the need for St George’s to be built. Unfortunately no images of the remarkable ‘traveling tabernacle’ seem to have survived and Trinity Chapel was demolished in 1875, the owner of the ground having decided that secular buildings would be more profitable.

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Filed under Architecture, Buildings, courtship & marriage, High Society, Love and Marriage, Religion

A Tenant For Life – the Georgian Husband

The two illustrations of courtship and the unwanted baby below are details from a fan dated 1797 entitled The Lady’s Advisor, Physician & Moralist which takes a sharp look at everything from spinsters with cats to the unwelcome effects of jealousy.

fan courtship

The image of the courting couple above is captioned  “Look upon or listen to or an object which is agreeable to your mind & if you have the least sensibility you will most probably be over head & ears in pickle.” They are going to end up married out of an illusion of love, at least on her side, according to the cynical writer.

However they ended up in wedlock, most Georgian husbands probably liked to think of themselves as ‘the Cove of the Ken’ – the master of the household, according to the slang dictionaries – but that might not be how their wives, or other men (including their fathers in law), saw them.  Wives acquired a ‘tenant for life’, and he might acquire a ‘petticoat hold’ on her fortune or, if he had a generous father-in-law he might receive ‘hand-basket portions’ or gifts from him.

But what if she has a lover, thus rendering him a cuckold? If he’s an old man with a young wife she might well have a ‘court of assistants’ who ensure that he is wearing ‘the bull’s feather’ and ‘horn mad’ with jealousy. Or she might be a nag – a ‘buttock and tongue’ – and the poor man lives ‘under the cat’s foot’ ‘in Queen Street’. He might then turn to drink, although if she is tolerant she might accompany him to the alehouse which makes him a ‘freeholder’ although if she marches down there to drag him out he will have been ‘arrested by the white sarjeant.’

He could, of course, be very happy with his ‘comfortable importance’, his ‘lawful blanket’ or his ‘rib’ but he might be ‘flying the kite’ with his mistress and if that leads to rows he might ‘divide the house’ with his wife, giving her the outside while he keeps the inside – and the front door key. Certainly someone turning up with a baby to lay at his feet would result in a serious rift, as in the scene below, captioned ‘The Unwelcome Present.’ the husband, looks very shifty as the old lady presents him with his child – and his wife is giving him a decidedly frosty look. Or perhaps she is simply appalled at what he is wearing.

baby

Of course the Georgian husband might be delighted with the arrival of babies – brats, chips, squeakers or bantlings – and I will leave you with this picture of domestic bliss – the happy father pulling his two youngest children in a ‘shay’ up Highgate Hill on a pleasure outing accompanied by his lovely wife and his son. Doesn’t he look happy with his lot in life?

Highgate

The Highgate Hill print is from a book of satirical verse, Takings, or the Life of a Collegian by R. Dagley (1821).

Lots more slang and cant may be found in Regency Slang Revealed

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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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