Marriage in Primitive Methodist chapels

Until 1837, all marriages (except those involving Quakers and Jews) had to take place in the parish church and according to the rites of the Church of England.

The 1836 Marriage Act made provision for the registration, for the solemnization of marriages, of any building certified as a place of religious worship, as from 1 July 1837.A registrar of marriages had to attend and register the marriage.

The Primitive Methodist connexion were the first Methodists to register their chapels, from 1837 but only a small proportion were registered for marriage at this point.

Even by 1867 only 267 chapels in the whole country were registered for marriages, out of the 2879 chapels registered for worship. This was actually the lowest proportion among the branches of Methodism. The possibility of being able to marry in a Primitive Methodist chapel varied across the country. At this stage the counties with the highest proportions of Primitive Methodist chapels registered for marriage were in the North-West and North-East of England, and in London. The Primitive Methodist in Essex or Sussex had no options available to them.

To give non-conformist bodies the same rights as enjoyed by the Established Church, Quakers and Jews, the Marriage Act 1898 provided for the appointment (by the governing body of a registered building) of an authorised person in whose presence the marriage had to be solemnized and by whom it had to be registered. Now that it was not necessary to have the Registrar in attendance, more chapels were registered for marriage. The image is from a marriage certificate issued under the 1898 Act.

By the end of 1899 the number of chapels registered for marriage had increased to 1134, a quarter of those open for worship; but only 62 congregations had taken advantage of the new rights. All counties had at least one Primitive Methodist chapel where marriages could take place.

If you are looking for a marriage which took place in a Methodist chapel, you will find the
register either in the care of the local minister or in the local County Record Office. You can also find a full record of the marriage in the General Registry Office, and may find it easier to obtain a copy from there. In either case, a fee is required for a copy of the entry. Unlike baptisms or burials, marriage is a legal ceremony, with the minister acting on behalf of the state, so the records belong to the state.

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