Monday, October 21, 2013

Register of Marriages in Castleton Parish

It was an autumnal Sunday; the 15th September.

The 258th day, of the 37th week, of 1771.

At the bottom of the page was a faintly scrawled, Finis. It was the end for 23,712 days. Not until William Boag was married to Margaret Elliot, the eldest surviving daughter of Thomas Elliot, farmer, in Kirndean, Castleton, on the 17th August 1836, by the Rev. Angus Barton was the “Register of Marriages in Castleton Parish” reinstated.

What happened that Sunday, in 1771, to the keeper of the Castleton marriage register: did he die, or walk away from his job on some principle, or are the subsequent registers simply lost ?

It wasn’t from the lack of local ministers, in fact on the last page of 1771 entries, there are not one but two marriages for Castleton ministers, the Rev Robert Rutherford and the infamous Rev W James Fletcher.

At this point I have to declare my interest, my grandmother was Hannah Jane Murray Elliot who herself was married in Newcastleton in 1913 and both her parents were Elliot also married in the village so the missing marriages are a real blight on genealogy research. For many years Thomas Elliot my great, great maternal grandfather living at 14 South Hermitage Street was the local grocer.

Looking at dates and churches and ministers in Castleton between 1771 and 1836 for some reason why all these years marriages are missing I haven’t been able to come up with anything and it would be worth reading all the session records to see if any clues lie there. The villagers were certainly very active in church life, particularly the Secessionists who broke away and formed their own churches and the furore over the Rev James Fletcher who resigned over an accusation which amounted to heresy. In addition Henry Scott, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, moved the villagers to a new site in 1793, probably because where they were in the old village of Castleton was better for his sheep rather than “to found a hand loom weaving centre” but the facts of the move seem to be rather censored.

A thriving church community; villagers deeply interested in the affairs of a number of churches, particularly for the size of the village. It’s hard to believe that marriage records weren’t kept from 1772-1835. I’m sure they were simply mislaid when one of the numerous church moves were made.

The recommencement of entries in 1836 could be easier explained as the “Act for Marriages in England 1836” came into being. This legalised the concept of civil marriage into England & Wales from 1st January 1837. So this may have precipitated the restart although Newcastleton is in Scotland it’s on the border. Since the Marriage Act 1753, the only legally recognised marriages in England & Wales (with the exception of Jews & Quakers) were those performed in a parish church by a clergyman of the Church of England. This meant that Roman Catholics and members of other dissenting congregations, as also atheists, Muslims, Hindus or members of any other religious body, had to be married according to (the Anglican) rites and ceremonies which they did not support.

 So I make a plea to the local Border historians get this matter better known and get everybody to search the old lofts and churches and likely places. If they can come up with a lost Michelangelo anything is possible.

This is a guest blog by Strath Stewart to celebrate Everybody Writes Day.

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