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Clandestine marriages

On 25 March 1754, the Marriage Act passed by the English Parliament came into force, which required parental consent if either spouse was not at least 21 years old. On the other side of the border, marriages were still allowed from the age of 14 for boys and 12 for girls, with or without the consent of the family.


Many young would-be brides fled England; the first Scottish village on their route was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith's shop, built around 1712, became the epicentre of marriage without parental consent.

Scottish law allowed irregular marriages, allowing almost anyone to perform the marriage ceremony provided a declaration was made before two witnesses. The local blacksmith, known as the anvil priest, and his anvil have become enduring symbols of Gretna Green marriages.


Philippe Van de Velde, alias Piper's Phil and the blacksmith, Eric Ledoux from Clan Ramsay.

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