Bonds and Marriage Licenses

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), p. 13.



Prepared by Michael Steer

From quite early times people of social standing who did not wish to attend the parish church to hear their banns called, married by license. A marriage by license, therefore, became a standard symbol of social status. Very grand people who wanted to marry in a private house or chapel could pay even higher fees for a special license. However, for several obvious reasons licenses are found right across the social scale. Overseers of the poor, for instance, might pay for a license to marry off a pregnant pauper before the birth of her child. The church had issued licenses to marry, dispensing with banns, at least from the 14th century. The system was not, however, codified until Canons of 1604 which said that a license should only be granted "upon good caution and security taken". From that date the person applying for the license, who was usually though not always, the bridegroom, provided a bond and an allegation and these were generally filed in the registry. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. This extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive.  These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 9. Bonds and Marriage Licenses.  - In searching the Marriage Licenses of the Diocese of Exeter published by the late Colonel Vivian, I noticed that there are a number of entries in which a bond of £200 is mentioned. The following is a typical example: 

1610. May 14. Richard Todde of Selbye in Yorke and Agnes Coxworthie alias Browne of Topsham. 

Peter Weaver of Topisham aforesaid, and Robert Dalton of Hull in Yorke bound in £200. 

Can any reader of D. & C. N. & Q. explain the reason for the bond?

An entry dated Nov. 21, 1610, mentions a bond of £100 for the indemnity of the Lord Bishop.

The following entries also appear to call for some explanation: 

1610. May 26. A caveat not to grant a license of marriage between William Bewes of Beaford, and any woman, because the said Bewes is an old man and near death. 

1610. John Dennis of Lanceston in Co. Cornwall, gent., and Joanna Taylor of St. Stevens by Lanceston; Anthony Dennis of Lanceston and John Challis of Exeter, grocer, paid 5/- in discharge. What did the 5/- paid discharge?