Page last updated at 00:17 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Gretna runaway wedding records go online

Gretna Green
Gretna Green became a popular venue for weddings in the 18th century

The wedding records of more than 10,000 couples who eloped to Scotland to get married in the 18th and 19th century are set to be published online.

The Gretna Green Marriage Registers cover the period from 1795 to 1895.

Ancestry.co.uk content director Dan Jones said the records revealed the "colourful history" of such weddings.

The town became a popular venue after the Marriage Act of 1754 in England, outlawing marriages without parental consent if either party was under 21.

A tradition developed of couples travelling over the border to Scotland, which had more lenient laws.

Each record details the full names of both husband and wife, their respective locations of residence, and the date of their wedding.

The collection contains the marriage records of Gretna Green's most prolific minister, David Lang.

Among the most notable weddings he conducted was one known as the Shrigley Abduction.

Tried and convicted

It was a national scandal of 1826, when Edward Wakefield duped 15-year-old heiress Ellen Turner into marriage at Gretna Green.

He claimed her father, a mill owner and sheriff of Cheshire, was a fugitive and if she would agree to marry Wakefield, her father would be saved.

She consented and they were married on the 8 March 1826 by blacksmith David Lang.

Wakefield was later tried and convicted of abduction.

Gretna Green remains a popular wedding venue to this day.

However, the number of "runaway" marriages fell after an act of parliament was passed in 1856.

It required one of the parties getting married to live in Scotland for a minimum of three weeks prior to the wedding for it to be recognised south of the border.



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