Devon Marriage Licence Allegations
Provided by Peter Selley
Marriage Licences enabled couples to marry without the inconvenience of having marriage banns repeated for three weeks at the couple's parish church(es). To obtain such a licence one of the parties, normally the groom, had to make a formal statement, called an Allegation, including an oath that there was no impediment to the marriage. If either party was underage the application had to be accompanied by the consent of his or her parent.
Pre-1837 marriage licences were issued by authority of:
- The Archbishop of Canterbury. His faculty office and Vicar General's office were both in London and could license a marriage in any parish in England and Wales.
- A Bishop, or one of his archdeacons or surrogates, who could license a marriage within his own diocese. (In Devon this would be the Diocese of the Bishop of Exeter.)
- The clergy of a "peculiar" parish, such as Uffculme or Woodbury in Devon, who could license a marriage for their parish.
The existence of a Licence Allegation does not guarantee that the marriage actually took place at the named parish church, or indeed at all. Nevertheless, they are a valuable information source.
The Devon Heritage Centre holds original Devon Marriage Licence Allegations as well as various transcripts. The LDS has microfilmed some of this archive.
These may be viewed at the Devon Heritage Centre.
The South West Heritage Trust Devon Archive Catalogue contains details (but not images) in date order:
(Use “Search within this sub-series” to find names, locations etc.)
In addition non-searchable Marriage Licence Registers 1734-1917 are available at the Devon Heritage Centre.
A searchable selection of 4,692 images are available from Familysearch (online, searchable). “This collection contains marriage bonds and allegations from the Diocese of Exeter for marriages that took place in Devon and Cornwall from 1660-1912. These records were filmed at the Devon Record Office.”
There is no need to fill the ‘Birthplace’ field, but ‘Marriage’ or ‘Residence’ may narrow down the selection.
n.b. The search facility is not 100% reliable; the South West Heritage Trust Devon Archive Catalogue (above) has more accurate data.
1) The Marriage Licences of the Diocese of Exeter, from the Bishop's Registers [1523-1631] Edited by Lieut.-Col. J. L. Vivian. Exeter: W. Pollard, 1887. 120 p.
2) Devon marriage licences, 1734-1837 and Marriages allegations, Devon and Cornwall, 1640, 1660-1734 Transcribed by C.A.T. Fursdon, (1931-1938) Devon and Cornwall Record Society.
Family search has an additional index of Marriage licenses, 1523-1762 (microfilm)
About 60 Allegations for marriage licences for Devonians are listed in Allegations for marriage licences issued from the Faculty office of the Archbishop of Canterbury at London, 1543 to 1869. J.L.C. Chester and G.C. Armytage (1886) London, Harleian Society Internet Archive (“Search inside” for “Devon”)
Findmypast lists 334 searchable allegations for marriage licences for marriages in Uffculme (1604–1837) in their Sarum Marriage Licence Bonds collection.