Every county had churches and isolated (Anglican) chapels known as 'places of resort' where the clergyman would marry anyone to anyone if they crossed his palm with silver. Often these were tiny parishes with little income of their own. In Buckinghamshire, a parish with a total population of 20-25 had an average of 23 marriages a year, and similar examples were found all over the country. Some of these clergy seem to have laid in a job lot of licences, which they issued at cut rates to all comers. There is a testy complaint that one un-sporting groom had 'come with his own licence', thus cutting retail profits. Londoners, even, came out to country parishes, and countrymen went up to town, to places like St James Dukes Place, where this easy-going attitude prevailed, to the extent of 30 to 40 marriages a day. Ecclesiastical sanctions were brought against some of the London clergy who had most offended, which left the way clear for the non- beneficed marriage mongers. The parish clergy could do little against them, and even threats of imprisonment were to no avail, for most of them were already prisoners. Younger sons of gentry often took orders while they were at University without any intent to serve a benefice, with the idea that if a fat family living became vacant when they were ready to settle down, they would be qualified. Meanwhile, they pursued the common rackety course of life of gentlemen of the time, and often ended up in debt, and in a Debtors' Prison, of which the most famous was the Fleet in Faringdon Street. Originally, marriage took place inside the prison, and when this was stopped, the debtor-clergy obtained permission to live just outside it, in the 'Rules or Liberties' of the Fleet. Here the parsons would marry anyone for a fee, day or night, and they did a roaring trade with sailors on shore, visitors to London, and couples whose families opposed the match. If the husband repented of the bargain, they would tear the page out of their 'registers' for a further fee. Several of the notebooks kept by these parsons have been deposited at the Public Record Office and some years ago a transcription was started, which seems to have vanished. There are transcripts of some of the minor churches which operated a marriage racket. Some of the clergy made ample money to get them out of gaol, but preferred to stay within the 'Rules' or opened Marriage shops, with facilities for the ceremony and the wedding breakfast too, on the fringes of London as it then was. So did innkeepers, spotting a profitable sideline, with ample clergy on tap. A famous one was St George's chapel, Mayfair, run by the Rev. Alexander Keith, whose clientele was massive and varied. Because of later property development, a marriage at 'St George's Mayfair' sounds classy, but at the time it was a raffish area (as parts still are). The marriages were legal (after some argument in court) but not always stable, since many couples knew little about each other. Some of the sailors came back with another bride next leave, and one lady married two men in one day. It was quick, cheerful and probably filled a need for more than those for whom it dug a pit. While it only involved members of the lower and lower middle classes, no one much bothered, though the higher clergy denounced the practice from time to time. But the marriage shops would also cater for the runaway heiress and her lover, asking no proof of age or consent of parents. Once a girl was married to a fortune hunter, she was ruined as currency on the marriage market. The husband could claim dowries and other sums left 'at her day of marriage' and use them as he wished. Even if she repented of the bargain, the husband would still have the chance to run through her fortune, since divorce was rare and cumbersome. It was this abuse, which affected the pockets and pride of the legislating classes, which led to the passing of the Hardwicke Act 'for the better prevent of Clandestine Marriage' in 1753, whose effects have already been described.Thomas Jackson, Jr.'s, father and mother-in-law were also married there. Why isn't evident, and given the very large number of marriages performed, it's hard to think all were "clandestine."
MS 11936/472/929460 3 April 1817 Contents: Insured: John Jackson 4 Mutton Hill Clerkenwell glass cutter Other property or occupiers: Mutton Lane (Wright, pawnbroker and Perkins, pastry cook); 5 Mutton Lane (Lamb, hair dresser); near The Adam and Eve St. Pancras (Hamp and Cotham); 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 Glass Court Mutton Lane; Glass Court, Mutton Lane; 52 Ray Street (Staber, smith); 54 Ray Street (Edmonds, brass founder); 55 Ray Street (broker); 41 Turnmill Street (corn chandler); 45 Turnmill Street (corn chandler); 2 Castle Street (cabinet maker); 3 Castle Street (painter); 9 Silver Street Clerkenwell