I have understood that banns / marriages were a maximum of 3 months apart. So I am confused.

Take these two individuals:

  • William Finsley Partridge
  • Mary Elizabeth Brown

Take these banns:


The source:

Wiltshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1916

I have verified with an online calendar that that those Sunday dates are from November 1904.

Yet, the only actual marriage certificate entry I can find is:

  • District: Salisbury
  • Volume: 5A
  • Page: 295
  • Quarter: Jan-Mar
  • Year: 1907

How is it possible that there be a gap from November 1904 to January 1907?

There is a similar discussion about this kind of problem mentioned here.

  • Just a note, but for BMDs after 1837, it is always worth checking FreeBMD Aug 27, 2019 at 15:04
  • @sempaiscuba Yes, I looked there too. Aug 27, 2019 at 15:09
  • 2
    It looks like William was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, so it's possible he was called away on duty before the marriage could take place. (Or, perhaps, that his commanding officer did not permit the marriage in 1904.) You'd probably need to find William's military records to see when he enlisted, and what his movements were.
    – AndyW
    Aug 27, 2019 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


The Marriage Act 1753, formally "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage" ( and popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Act), required that banns had to be called or a marriage licence obtained for a marriage to be legally valid. In fact this simply codified the existing practice within the Church of England into law. Under this statute the banns had to be read aloud on three Sundays before the wedding, in the home parish churches of both parties. No time limit was set on the time between the reading of the banns and the marriage.

The Marriage Act 1836 allowed marriages to be legally registered in buildings belonging to religious groups other than the Church of England, Jews and Quakers (the 1735 Act only recognised marriages conducted in buildings belonging to those groups), legalised civil marriage in England and Wales. It did not change the requirements for banns or licences for Church of England weddings.

The Marriage Act 1949 introduced the requirement that the marriage had to be solemnised within three months of the banns being read (section 12.2). Prior to that the time limit did not apply.

Since the banns in your case were read in November 1904, and the marriage (if it is the same couple) was solemnised in 1907, this would be acceptable under the law at that date. A delay of a little over two years between banns and marriage would certainly be unusual in my experience, but not against the law as enacted at that date.

  • 1904 / 1907 not 1804 / 1807. There is a 9 crossed over the 8 on the banns. Does this change things? Aug 27, 2019 at 14:20
  • 1
    That was a typo. Corrected now. Aug 27, 2019 at 14:23

The 1904 banns may have still been regarded as valid (and it would be for the officiating vicar to decide, if the marriage was to take place in a CofE church) - but there are a number of other possible scenarios to consider.

The 1907 marriage reference is only an index and doesn't indicate whether the marriage took place in a church or in a registration office - nor whether it was by banns, certificate or licence.

  • 1
    You may be on to something. According to the family, (this is my relatives ancestry) William and Mary had a son whom they named William Partridge Brown. But he was born in April 1905. This might scupper getting married at the church. From then on, the sons descendants were all Browns, taking on the mothers surname. But their daughter, who was born in October 1907, was Lily Elizabeth Partridge. I only just noticed the surname differences. So I think this is probably their certificate. Would be interesting in ordering it. Aug 27, 2019 at 15:13
  • It also explains why both of their baptisms was in October 1908. Same day. Aug 27, 2019 at 15:41
  • Weird, William Brown Partridge on the baptism. Yet he is known by brown. All his kids are. Going off topic now. Oops. Aug 27, 2019 at 15:43
  • 1
    @AndyW Yeah. I have managed to confirm that William jr was born out of wedlock. Then they married in 1907 and later that year had Lily. A year later they were both baptised. William jr was registered "William Brown". At baptism "William Brown Partridge". At marriage and death "William Partridge Brown". And William and Mary were married at a registry office. Aug 27, 2019 at 21:03
  • 2
    He wasn't registered as William BROWN - the entry was indexed as BROWN. Before 1969, there are no surnames shown for the child on birth registrations and they are indexed by the parent(s) surnames depending on the marital status.
    – AntonyM
    Aug 28, 2019 at 8:25

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