Peter Brown Family History

Items of Interest



  1. Fleet Prison Marriages:
    Fleet marriages were irregular ceremonies that took place in an area centred on the Fleet prison in London during the later 1600s and first half of the 1700s. They were speedy marriages of convenience carried out by ordained clergymen who had no parochial allegiance to the Bishop of London. Often they were debtor prisoners themselves who were allowed to live within close proximity of the Fleet Prison. 'Rules of the Fleet' marriages were initially carried out in the prison chapel but as the practice became more popular then other local 'chapels' were set up in nearby taverns, coffee house, chambers and shops. Parsons' fees were charged according to prevailing market forces of urgency and necessity for a quick wedding service, often with only 24 hours notice. Occasionally, Fleet parsons were prepared to travel into the surrounding countryside - with the added bonus of travelling expenses. No banns or licences were required but a record was kept by an accompanying register keeper and hence many of these records now survive in The Public Record Office. Strangely, unlike parish registers of that period, these records contain details of occupations, marital status and home locality and are therefore of interest to those trying to track down their family history in counties surrounding London. Whilst many of the customers for these services were fortune hunters, ladies with debts, sailors, soldiers and the aristocracy with an eye to the main chance, recent research has shown that the majority were couples marrying with the intention of making their marriage last. Popular tabloid belief, especially in Victorian novels, concentrated on the fraudulent or bigamous happenings but it is doubtful that the incidence of these was any more common than in the rest of the country at that time. The Marriage Act of 1753, regulating banns, licences and places of solemnisation of marriages, brought to an end this unconventional practice in a corner of London.
    If one wanted to marry in secrecy, perhaps being married already, pregnant, or in a hurry when a soldier or sailor had been posted abroad, this was the place to come.
  2. Burial in Wollen:
    : In parish burials register of 17th & 18th century,, the burial date and person's name was sometimes followed by 'affadavit was brought' and a date, often a week or more later. Was this a sworn declaration of the identity of the dead person or for the burial payment? Answer: By Marion Woolgar SFHG: It’s the operation of the Burial in Woollen Acts 1666, 1678 and 1680 that required the dead to be buried in pure woollen shrouds made only of English wool i.e. foreign textiles were excluded.  An affidavit had to be sworn before a JP confirming the burial in wool and a note placed in the burial register.  There was a fine of £5 for non-compliance.  The only exception was for victims of plague. The idea was to protect the British woollen industry from foreign imports, but it got into trouble when the cotton mills of Lancashire demanded protection for their cloth as well.  The legislation was revoked in 1814, but had gradually fallen out of use long before. You will find a copy of the original Act here .  An example of the affidavit is shown here .