The handwritten registers and notebooks are presented as a browse. You can search by year, volume type, officiating minister, archive reference, or a keyword available in the description of the volume. We also provide a search for the event type. The vast majority of the records are for marriages; however, you will find a small selection of baptism records. These volumes are identified as Marriages & Baptisms. To search the records by name, follow the link to England, Clandestine marriages in the Useful links and resources section.
With each result, you will be able to access a volume of marriage records. The images begin from the front cover of the volume. Use the arrows to browse through the images or enter a specific image number into the image counter at the bottom, centre of the image.
In each register or notebook, you will find the following facts about the marriage:
Marital status (S - spinster, B - bachelor, and W - widow)
The small number of entries for baptisms will include
The England, clandestine marriages browse originates from The National Archives’ Register General (RG) series 7. A full list of all the archive references and their descriptions is available below. Clandestine or irregular marriages were marriages performed outside of the Anglican church. Until Hardwick’s Law of 1754, the laws around marriage ceremonies were lax. While marriage was technically required to take place in an Anglican church, those performed outside the church were still recognised, categorised as common law marriages.
There are a number of reasons why individuals would have participated in these ceremonies. The couple may have wanted to be married in secret and away from their home. There may have been a reason that the marriage needed to be performed quickly. A clandestine marriage also cost far less than a traditional wedding. However, not all reasons were innocent, and the courtrooms heard many cases of people coerced or forced into a marriage or cases of bigamy. At this time, the age required for marriage was 14 for men and 12 for women.
Most of the registers, notebooks, and volumes come from the Fleet area. London’s Fleet Prison was located beside the River Fleet. At the time these records were created, the prison was home to debtors and bankrupts. Prisoners were responsible for paying for their room and food in prison, but they could also pay extra to live outside the prison walls. The area around the prison was known as ‘Rules of Fleet’ or the ‘Liberty of the Fleet’. It was a ruthless and lawless area. Among the many inmates were clergymen who took the opportunity to charge for performing clandestine marriages. Houses and taverns set up rooms for these ceremonies and took a fee for the use of the space. The individual clergymen kept their own notebooks and registers of the marriages performed.
All original records are held at The National Archives.
RG 7/1-273: Fleet register
RG 7/274: Index to piece number 8
RG 7/275: Index to piece number 28, pages 1-50 only
RG 7/276: Section 1 - index to piece number 35
RG 7/277: Index to piece number 42
RG 7/278: Pages 1-196 - index to piece number 116
RG 7/279: Index to piece number 13
RG 7/280: Index to piece number 148
RG 7/281: Index to an unidentified volume of 52 folios
RG 7/282: Partial index to piece number 189 folios 1-34 and piece number 218
RG 7/283: Index to piece number 200, pages 1-58
RG 7/284: Index to piece number 218
RG 7/285: Index to an unidentified volume "book 206"
RG 7/286: Part I - index to an unidentified volume, 1745-1747
RG 7/287: Index to piece number 241 entries 1-590 (1748-1752); piece number 267 entries 584-686 (1752-1753); and part of piece number 15 (Aug 1752 - Mar 1754) entries 592-670
RG 7/288: Index to piece number 255
RG 7/289: Index to piece number 263
RG 7/290: Portions of four indexes to unidentified volumes
RG 7/291: Fleet notebook
RG 7/292-386: Fleet notebook - Ashwell's notebook
RG 7/387-402: Fleet notebook - Barrett's notebook
RG 7/403-471: Fleet notebook - Burnford's notebook
RG 7/472-476: Fleet notebook - Burnford's notebook - Newton's notebook
RG 7/477-478: Fleet notebook - The Cock notebook
RG 7/479-548: Fleet notebook - Dare's notebook
RG 7/549-555: Fleet notebook - Dare's notebook - Crawford's account
RG 7/556: Fleet notebook - Floud & Cuthbert's notebook
RG 7/589-656: Fleet notebook - Gaynam's notebook
RG 7/657-659: Fleet notebook - Gower's notebook
RG 7/660: Fleet notebook - King's Arms register, marriages at Mr William Simpson's (who kept the King's Arms)
RG 7/661: Fleet notebook - Sands's notebook, marriages performed at Sands's
RG 7/662: Fleet notebook - Shellburn's notebook
RG 7/663: Fleet notebook - Shepherd and Goat register, marriages at Mr Daniel Stebbing's at the "Shepherd & Goat"
RG 7/664-666: Fleet notebook - Possibly Townsend's notebooks
RG 7/667: Fleet notebook -Two Sawyers' register
RG 7/668: Fleet notebook - Wigmore's notebook, marriages at the house of Mr & Mrs Ball
RG 7/669-676: Fleet notebook - Wigmore's notebook
RG 7/677: Fleet notebook - Wilson's notebooks, marriages performed at the house of J Wilson Jr
RG 7/679-801: Fleet notebook - Wyatt's notebook
RG 7/802: Fleet notebook - Mottram's notebook
RG 7/817-818: Fleet notebook - unidentified notebook (1st series)
RG 7/819-824: Fleet notebook - unidentified notebook (2nd series)
RG 7/825-831: Fleet notebook - miscellaneous notebook
RG 7/832: Fleet notebook - a collection of loose pages from unidentified notebooks
RG 7/833-835: Fleet notebook - miscellaneous notebook