Marriage bonds and allegations for London and Surrey, between the years 1597 and 1921, are now accessible at Ancestry. As the website explains:

Before civil registration began in 1837, most people in England during the timespan of these records married by banns or by licence, as required by law. The process of requesting a licence included providing a written allegation stating a couple’s intent to marry and asserting that there were no legal obstacles to the marriage. From 1604 until 1823, the allegation was made sure by bond. Two witnesses, one of them typically the groom, swore to the bond, which would be forfeit if the claims of the allegation proved false and a legal impediment to the marriage, such as consanguinity, arose.

Marriage allegations and bonds often exist where licences don’t because, while the licence was given to a member of the wedding party to present to the officiant at the ceremony, the allegation stayed with the authority who issued it.

Yesterday I came across two documents relating to the first marriage of my great-great- great-great-grandfather James Blanch to Jane Barlow. The first document is an allegation, reproduced below:

Marriage allegation for James Blanch and Jane Barlow

Here is a transcription:

London Diocese

3d September 1779 

Appeared personally James Blanch and made Oath, that he is of the Parish of Saint Ann Westminster in the County of Middlesex and a Batchelor aged twenty one years and upwards and intendeth to marry with Jane Barlow of the same Parish a Spinster aged also twenty one years and upwards and that he knoweth no lawful Impediment, by Reason of any Pre-Contract, Consanguinity, Affinity, or any lawful Means whatsoever, to hinder the said intended Marriage and prayed a Licence to solemnize the same in the Parish Church of Saint Ann Westminster aforesaid and further made Oath that the usual place of Abode of him the Deponent has been in the said Parish of Saint Ann Westminster for the Space of four weeks last past 

James Blanch

Sworn before me 

Jos. Simpson


The second document is in the form of a bond, reproduced below:

Marriage bond for James Blanch and Jane Barlow

Here is a transcription:

Know all Men by these Presents, That We James Blanch of the Parish of Saint Ann Westminster in the County of Middlesex Heelmaker and John Doe Gentlemen are hereby become bound unto the Right Reverend Father in God Robert, by Divine Permission Lord Bishop of London, in the Sum of Two Hundred Pounds of good and lawful Money of Great-Britain, to be paid to him the said Right Reverend Father in God, or his lawful Attorney, Executors, Successors or Assigns; For the good and faithful Payment of which Sum, we do bind ourselves, and both of us, jointly and severally, for the Whole, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators, firmly by these Presents, Sealed with our Seals, Dated the third Day of September in the Year of our Lord 1779. 

The Condition of this Obligation is such, that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful Lett or Impediment, by Reason of any Pre-Contract, Consanguinity, Affinity, or any other lawful Means whatsoever, but that the above bounden James Blanch a Bachelor and Jane Barlow of the same Parish a Spinster may lawfully solemnize Marriage together, and in the same afterwards lawfully remain and continue for Man and Wife, according to the Laws in that Behalf provided: And moreover, if there be not at this present Time any Action, Suit, Plaint, Quarrel, or Demand, moved or depending before any Judge Ecclesiastical or Temporal, for or concerning any such lawful Impediment between the said Parties: Nor that either of them be of any other Parish or Place, nor of any better Estate or Degree, than to the Judge at granting of the Licence is suggested.

and by him the said James Blanch sworn to

And lastly, if the said Marriage shall be openly solemnized in the Church, or Chapel in the Licence specificed, between the Hours appointed in Constitutions Ecclesiastical confirmed, and according to the Book of Common Prayer, now by Law established, and the above bounden James Blanch do save harmless and keep indemnified the above-mentioned Right Reverend Father in God, his Chancellor and Surrogates, and all other his Officers and Ministers whatsoever, by Reason of the Premises; then this Obligation to be void, or else to remain in full Force and Virtue.

James Blanch

Signed and Delivered in the Presence of

R Parker

While these two documents do not provide any startling new revelations about my ancestor, they do contain a couple of interesting snippets of information. The first is that, in 1779, James described himself as a ‘heel maker’. In the Westminster poll book for the following year, he is said to be a patten maker – someone who made wooden or metal under-shoes – an occupation he shared with his father-in-law, William Barlow. I’m not sure whether heel-making was a specialist refinement of this trade, or whether the two descriptions are synonymous.

Either way, this description of James’ occupation has made me realise that the occupation of shoemaker followed by his son, my great-great-great-grandfather John Blanch, might not have been so surprising after all. Until recently, I wondered why John became a shoemaker in Stepney and Bethnal Green, when his older brothers worked together in the family coach-making business in Soho and Chelsea. But it’s possible that their father James continued working as a patten or heel maker for much of his adult life, only becoming a Custom House Officer – the occupation given on his death certificate – in later years, and that his son John was simply following in his father’s footsteps. He might even have learnt his trade from him.

The other tantalising piece of information is the name of the person who stood as a witness for James. We are told that his name was John Doe and that he was a ‘gentleman’: unfortunately, we’re not given details of his home parish, or of his connection to James. If we could find out more about Doe, it might provide further clues as to James’ origins and background.