17th August 1836: Hatched, Matched and Dispatched.


SAM_2212 (2)

A very rare example of an oak dug-out parish church chest.

Today in 1836 the Royal Assent was granted to the compulsory civil registration of births marriages and deaths. The bill which had been piloted, against Church opposition, by the Liberal MP, Lord John Russell came into effect the following year.(1)


13th century iron-banded oak chest for keeping parish records, which would have included baptisms, marriages and burials. St.Andrew’s, Yarnscombe, Devon.

Before Lord Hardwicke’s 1754 Act, marriage had been an haphazard affair with many so-called illegal Fleet [Prison] Marriages conducted  by  parsons imprisoned for debt, a practice which spread to local  taverns.

Many had just exchanged vows before friends, and there was  always Gretna Green, Scotland for the wealthy.(2)

Legislation, until 1837, stated that baptism and burial as well as  marriage,  had  to be in the local Anglican Parish Church, preceded by  the  reading of  Banns, and this included all dissenters as well as  Roman  Catholics, but not Quakers and Jews, It was a situation which  John Russell decided was untenable.(3)



Church Chests came in a variety of shapes and design.


So anyone now looking for their ancestor’s records need to find the local Anglican Church Registers up to 1837, where the priest would  have entered the dates of baptism (not birth) the marriage if any and  the burial (not the death). After that they were all held at Somerset House, London.

Some parsons did add other details about ’cause’ of death, often apoplexy or such like, and some did include dates of birth and death, though the 1812 Rose Act had set out minimum information now required by law.

In the past the statistics collected, had been used as a levy by William III, who needed money to fight the French, showing how statistics can be misused, as we are well aware of today.

Records once held in the 1,000 room Somerset House, the site of a mid-16th century Palace of the Duke of Somerset in London’s Strand, now repose in the nearby St. Catherine’s House.

(1) On the 1st of July 1837. The Church was concerned that now they had lost their monopoly, people wouldn’t need to go to church for the rite of baptism where infants had been traditionally named.

(2 Though banned when Scotland signed the Marriage Act in 1940, Gretna Green was legalized again in 1979. The Channel Islands and Isle of Man were also alternatives to Gretna Green..

(3) Ironic as the Roman Catholic Church was the established church in Britain until 1533, and not until the 1559 Act of Uniformity, did the Church of England became by law established.

SAM_2205 (2)

Gnosall Parish Church Chest.


SAM_2206 (2)

Ref: geograph.org

Ref: 1837.com Birth, Marriages and Deaths.

Ref: Observations on Lord John Russell’s bill.books.google.co.uk/books J yates 1836.

Ref: nationalarchives-gov.uk BMD

Pic ref: geographia.org.uk en wiki.org

Pic ref: familyhistoryalive’com

Next Post is the 1882 Married Woman’s Property Act.


Tags: , , , , , ,

About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: