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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2008-06 > 1214497266

From: "La Greenall" <>
Subject: Re: [Ess] Essex Strays
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 17:21:06 +0100
In-Reply-To: <002e01c8d716$a26aa6d0$1e00a8c0@GANDALF>

These extracts are fascinating, Celia, and you've obviously hit on a

I tried a bit of Googling on the church's name, and came up with these

Its name has been shortened to St. Benet's, and Paul's Wharf is not to
be found in a modern A-Z. However, Paul's Walk is, and St. Benet's is
just north of this, near to St Paul's cathedral and opposite the College
of Arms. The College have used it as their church since 1555, and many
officers of arms are interred there. It is today known as the Welsh
Church of London, having been adopted by Anglican Londoners of Welsh
origin. It has an ancient history, going back to the 12th century, but
was destroyed in the Great Fire. The present church was designed by Wren
and dates to 1677-83.

But perhaps a bit more interesting for us on the list, is this brief

"The church is mentioned by Shakespeare (who once owned a house nearby)
in Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1. The clown having received two
pieces of gold from the duke says:
"Primo, secundo, tertio, is a good play;
and the old saying is, 'the third pays for all':
the triplex, sir, is a good tripping measure; or
the bells of Saint Bennet, sir, may put you in
mind; one, two, three.
But the duke replies – “You can fool no more money out of me at this
throw” "

If I understand this correctly, it seems that crossing a palm with a
third piece of gold could even make the (wedding?) bells at St. Benet's
ring out, in Shakespeare's time.

The same source ( - a PDF file) continues:

"St Benet was the Parish Church of Doctor’s Commons – which stood at the
north-west corner of the churchyard where Faraday House now stands – a
legal institution which amongst its many and complex activities could
provide facilities for hasty marriages. This probably accounts for the
fact that there were 13,423 marriages solemnized in the church between
1708 and 1731. The Commons occupied the north gallery, paying five
pounds per annum per household for its upkeep, as well as paying for the
Lector (a curate)."

So there we have it!

Searching the Old Bailey Proceedings website for different spellings of
this church's name brought up 41 trials. Five of these were for bigamy;
a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands of marriages performed
there, so perhaps the Law only intervened when it was forced into a
corner. All five cases were heard in the 1730s and 1740s, perhaps
representing a tough time for the Commons' money-making sideline. A
couple of examples:

"Mary (the Wife of John) Sommers , was indicted, for that she on the
fourteenth Day of February, in the second Year of his Majesty's Reign,
in the Parish of St. Bride's London, did take to Husband John Sommers ,
and to him, was then and there married; and that afterwards, to wit, on
the twenty seventh of April, in the second Year of his Majesty's Reign,
she the said Sommers, in the Parish of St. Bennet Paul's Wharf,
feloniously took to Husband , and to him was then and there married, her
former Husband being then alive." [1736]

"Edmund Elgar , was indicted for that he on the fifth day of June, in
the eighth year of his late Majesty, at London, to wit, in the parish of
St. Andrew Holborn, did marry Mary Hills , Spinster, and her then and
there had for his wife; and that he afterwards, to wit, on the 29th of
January, in the 13th year of his present Majesty , with force and arms,
in the parish of St. Benedict near Paul's Wharf, did marry, and to wife
take one Priscilla Horrex , his said wife Mary being then living and in
full life; and that he on the 4th day of June last was taken and
arrested for the Felony aforesaid." [1744]

So, if you paid the going rate, you could even have a shotgun wedding at
St. Benet's!

I wonder if this Elgar took his weapon into church inside a violin case?

Perhaps more revealing is that 34 of the other 36 Old Bailey trials were
all for theft or fraud, either the offence or the perpetrators mostly
being 'of the parish' of St. Benet's. Poor hapless couples, tripping
into a lion's den! These 34 trials range in date from 1696 to 1832,
though there were large 'blips' in the 1720s, 1740s, and 1780s.

The last two cases were for murder, in 1716 and 1770, their dates
perhaps heralding the opening and final curtains on this drama's main


-----Original Message-----
[mailto:] On Behalf Of Celia Renshaw
Sent: 25 June 2008 23:56
Subject: [Ess] Essex Strays

Many thanks to everyone who replied with advice and suggestions re.
copyright issues - I will be given each message several readings so I
proper sense of it all before going ahead (or not) with posting more
to my website or approaching relevant places for permission - and I have
also signed on to the COPYRIGHT mailing list, which I never previously
about, many thanks for that pointer.

Meanwhile, I've copied below a first batch of strays from the registers
St Benedict, Paul's Wharf, London (from the Harleian Society transcript
Archive CD Books CD), these are early ones and spellings are
For your info, these marriage registers are the strangest I've ever
There are hardly any couples from the parish getting married there, 95%
the entries are strays and virtually all are marrying by licence. The
introduction to the transcript remarks on the large number of marriages
suggests this may be because the Faculty Office is very nearby. One has
picture of an early-modern production line - take your licence here, now
turn left and stand before the vic.... A very large number of the names
clearly Scottish (I'd guess about 20%+) and there appear to be plenty of
dissenter names too - many Isaacs, Deborahs, Ruths, Calebs etc. So in
humble opinion, this was one of those parishes where marriages could be
with no questions asked and no Church of England communion required, but
have yet to do any research to see if that is true. Oh and there are
quite a
lot of French folk marrying here too, possibly Huguenots, but I haven't
copied those, unless their abode was outside London/Middlesex.

I think this fits the criterion that Keith stated, a source of many
events that no-one could imagine would be lurking in such a parish, so
researchers would be unlikely to look here. If anyone knows anything
about any of the folk listed below, or those to follow, I would love to
about it.

Celia Renshaw
in Chesterfield UK

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