JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
Updated 13.7.2009 reformatted 1.2012
The idea of eloping to Gretna Green is part of our English folklore, but it does have a very real basis of truth.
The law relating to marriage in England was tightened up in 1753-4, establishing that the marriage had to take place in Church with a minimum age of 21 unless the permission of the parents had been obtained. However, Scottish law still permitted marriage from the age of sixteen with minimal formalities. This presented an obvious business opportunity which Scots with premises on the border weren't slow to take up. The village of Gretna became famous, and the smithy on the village green was just one of the thriving businesses in the area.
Just one Englishman who ran away to Gretna to marry was John Peel, 1797. After 1856 a residential requirement of three weeks for one of the couple was introduced. 'Handfasting', a ceremony of pagan origin, which took the form of a betrothal or trial marriage for a year and a day, leading to actual marriage, was valid until1940, and Scottish law still allows marriage from sixteen years without parental permission, unlike in England.
There is now a museum, and you can still get married at Gretna Green.
George Cheesman was marrried at Gretna Hall, an old coaching inn in Gretna Green, in 1835. This venue was the favourite place for aristocratic runaways, and the focus of many a scandal. (As always, class came into the equation - the better known blacksmiths venue was used by the lower classes.) The first witness was John Linton, sometimes styled 'priest', the proprietor of Gretna Hall. The other witnesses were Richard(?) Linton, and William Miller, who couldn't sign his name.
Here is the website of Gretna Hall - still taking bookings!
The History of the old Tollbar - the rivalry for customers between The old tollbar on the border and Gretna Hall
Wedding venues at Gretna Green - number three is named after John Linton, and shows a picture of the desk where (perhaps!) George and Emma signed their name.
I have no commercial connection with any of theses sites, and take no responsibility for any legal information!
ŠJohn Hoare Nov 2005
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