April 12, 2016 by auntkatefirmin
I have mentioned before that couples could marry by banns or by license. The license is often called a bond, as it is in the form of an surety bond which functions as a guarantee that the parties will comply with all legal requirements, in this case for marriage. For couples in Wiltshire, the licenses were issued under the authority of the Diocese of Sarum (Salisbury) and are therefore known as Sarum Bonds. In this post I will transcribe a sample bond from 1704 for Elizabeth Allen and Swithin Gibbons. By 1704, the bonds were recorded on pre-printed forms and the parts transcribed in italics were filled in by the clerk. I was uncertain of a few parts, in particular the sum of money involved in the bond as the number is both abbreviated and in Latin.
Many groups of marriage bonds have been transcribed and the details indexed; the bonds are most often only available in various archives depending on the jurisdiction although some, like London, have been digitised. These types of licenses were an alternative to banns until civil registration replaced ecclesiastical authority for marriages in 1837. As an aside, prior to 1754 in England, couples were not required to be married in a church; the marriage was legal as long as the service was conducted by an Anglican clerygman.
Technically, the bond is not proof that the couple actually married. In instances where the parish records do not survive, it may be the only evidence available, and it often includes details like occupations that are not included in parish records. Common reasons for choosing this alternative are:
-not wishing to wait while the banns were called for three successive weeks.
-marrying in parish that is not their home parish (where the couple are less well known and the parishioners would not know if there was an impediment to the marriage).
-displaying status, as traveling to obtain and pay for the license cost money.
The top portion, in Latin, gives the names (Latinised) of the parties bound by the document together with a sum of money that would be owed to the Bishop in the event that some impediment to the marriage was discovered. The sum could be very large as it was never intended that the bondsmen pay the sum.
[the corner of the document is stamped showing that the duty on legal documents, or “stamp tax” was paid]
Noverint Universi per praesentes nos Swithnum Gibbons Badbury in Com: Wilton et Joan[n]em Seymer de [place name?] teneri & firmiter obligari Rev’do Jno Gilberto Sarum E[piscop]o in [*] libris legalis Monetae Angliae, solvend’ eidem [sum of money] aut suo certo Attornato, Executoribus, Successoribus vel Assignatis suis: Ad quam quidem Solutionem bene & fideliter faciend’ Obligamus no & utrumque nostrum per se pro toto & in solido Haeredes, Executores, & administratores nostros firmiter per praesentes. Sigillis nostris Sigillat. Dat Septimo Die Mensis Decembris Anno Regni Dom [?] Anne— Dei Gratia, Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, Regine Fidei Defensor, &c. Annoq; Dom. 1704.
The condition of this Obligation is such, That if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful Lett or Impediment, by reason of any Pre-contract, Consanguinity, Affinity, or any other Lawful means whatsoever; but the the above bounde Swithin Gibbons & Elizabeth Daughter of the above bounden John Seymour may lawfully solemnize Marriage together, and in the same afterwards lawfully remain and continue for Man and wife, according to the Laws in that behalf provided. And moreover, if there be not at this present time any Action, Suit, Plain, Quarrel, or Demand, moved or depending befor [sic] any Judge Ecclesiastical or Temporal, for or concerning any such lawful Impediment between the said Parties; Nor that either of them be of any better Estate or Degree, than to the Judge at the granting of the Licence is suggested.
And lastly, That the said Marriage shall be openly solemnized in the Church in the License specified, between the Hours appointed in the Constitution Ecclesiastical confirmed, and according to the Form of the Book of Common Prayer, now by Law established. That then this Obligation to be void or else to stand in full force and virtue.
Sigillat & Deliberat
Cor: Yeate [Cornelius Yeate, Vicar of St Mary, Marlborough]
the mark [X] of Eliz Munday
Swithin Gibbens [signed] [seal]
John Seymer [signed] [seal]
* The Bishop of Salisbury in 1704 was Gilbert Burnet. John Gilbert is assumed to be someone authorized to act on his behalf.