HisotricaLeigh: Jumping the Shotgun!
On the 18 March 1736 Stephen Church of Leigh married Elizabeth Cadman, also of Leigh. Nothing remarkable in that, except that Stephen’s first wife, Mary, did not die until after this date and was buried in Leigh on 27 April 1736.
So how did he get away with it?
Before we used the present day Julian Calendar our years ran under the Gregorian Calendar from April to March. So when Mary died in April 1736 her death was actually 11 months before the March of Stephen’s second marriage but both are recorded as 1736.
1752 began on 1 January. To align the calendar in use in England to that on the continent, the Gregorian calendar was adopted: and the calendar was advanced by 11 days: Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752. The year 1752 was thus a short year (355 days). There was much consternation and social upheaval as people felt they had lost 11 days from their lives.
Stephen and Elizabeth took part in what is known as a clandestine marriage in London. The wedding took place in the Fleet Prison. The requirements were loose to say the least. Grooms could be as young as 14 and brides 12. The bride and groom needed only to give their consent to the union for it to be recognized.
Clergy and witnesses were not necessary, though they were often present to provide proof that the marriage had taken place. Prisons like the Fleet and the King’s Bench were popular for couples interested in quick, no questions-asked nuptials because of the number of clerics imprisoned for debt who had nothing to lose and welcomed the income. Edward Ashwell was the officiating minister, who is described in the records as a ‘thorough rogue and vagabond’.
This article is by Carole Mulroney of Leigh Lives - www.leighlives.co.uk
To read all of Carole's previous article of the History of our little town, click here