Gretna Green is one of the world's most popular wedding destinations; hosting over 5000 weddings each year or one of every six Scottish weddings
The exit from the 'shopping complex' back to the car park.
A clasped hand (of romance?) sculpture in front of the Tartan Shop.
Gretna Green first became
very popular for 'runaway couples' weddings after Lord Hardwicke
introduced the 1753-1754 Marriage Act of Parliament which stated that:
1. Any marriages performed in a church must be recorded in the Parish
Records and be signed by both Bride and Groom. 2. Weddings which were
carried out in places or times deemed illegal were not legal ceremonies
according to the 1604 canons. 3. All legal weddings should be performed
in a church and 'verbal spousals' in non-church ceremonies would be
deemed illegal. 4. The Bride and Groom must both be 21 or over to marry
without their parental or guardian consent.
The Lord Hardwicke Act did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to get married at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent. Since 1929 both the bride and groom have to be at least 16 years old but there is still no consent needed. In England and Wales the ages are now 16 with consent and 18 without. Before changes in the law many elopers fled England to Gretna Green, the first village they encountered in Scotland. The Old Blacksmith's shop in Gretna Green was one of several popular place for these marriages to take place.
This Hardwicke Act was introduced to prevent the thousands of illegal marriages taking place which were never properly recorded and led to many disputes where landowners daughters had married against their fathers wishes. All the Bride and Groom had to do was appear before a parson and two witnesses and declare their wish to be married.
The Old Blacksmith's Smithy (above picture, dated 1713) opened to the public as a tourist attraction as early as 1887.
1857 Lord Brougham brought in a bill changing the law which meant that a couple must be in residence in the area for a minimum of 21 days prior to the proposed date, this became known as "the three week cooling-off period". This significantly reduced the number of Gretna Green marriages but determined couples found work on farms or other local businesses for the legally required three week. In 1940 all "irregular marriages " were stopped.
During a thirteen year period before 1940 an anvil priest named Richard Rennison is reputed to have claimed that he performed over 5000 Gretna Green weddings.
One of the marriage ceremony rooms.
The local blacksmith and his anvil have are iconic symbols of Gretna Green weddings. In earlier times with Scottish law allowing for 'irregular marriages', meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as 'anvil priests'. In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days' residence for marriage so many a couple had to spend a few weeks in some lodgings or a nearby barn in order to qualify for marriage.
In 1977 the three week cooling off period was no longer a residential qualification, but the act stated that the couple must give 14 days written notice of their intended wedding. The law did allow couples to marry wherever they wanted but it wasn't until 1994 when Ministers began to perform anvil weddings in Gretna Green and so the tradition of an anvil wedding returned.
The museum is great fun and tells the history of elopement to, and marriage in, Gretna Green over the past 200 years.
There are some lovely old carriages on display in the museum.
A fine carriage to elope in!
A penny farthing bicycle is not well designed for eloping couples!
Get a three week job as a delivery boy or girl for a local grocer prior to the nuptials!
A Scottish piper and some 'interesting' sculptures now adorn the 'tourist complex' of Gretna Green where coaches of tourists seem to arriving every fifteen minutes - obviously a popular spot to include in a Scottish Tour.
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