Banns of the Commonwealth period

Commonwealth Banns in Yeovil

The Banns of Yeovil Parish during the Commonwealth


There once existed in the records of St John's church, Yeovil, a banns book of the English  Commonwealth period, thought to be one of the earliest of its kind in existence. Much of the following is adapted from an article by John Goodchild, published in Somerset & Dorset Notes & Queries in 1917. Unfortunately I can't locate the original Banns Book.

The "Barebone's Parliament", also known as the Little Parliament, the Nominated Assembly and the Parliament of Saints, came into being on 4 July 1653, and was the last attempt of the English Commonwealth to find a stable political form before the installation of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. It was an assembly entirely nominated by Oliver Cromwell and the Army's Council of Officers. In 1653 the "Barebone's Parliament" passed an act to establish in every parish a register of marriages, births and burials and by which Justices alone were to perform the ceremony of marriage. According to the new law, after 29 September 1653 no other form of marriage would be considered valid. This ordinance was confirmed in 1656, though the declaration was omitted that no other marriage except by a magistrate was valid.

The Yeovil Banns Book dated from 1653 and inside the fly-leaf was the inscription -

"Giles Hayne thelder of Yeavill came before me and produced a certificate whereby it appeareth hee is elected and chosen by the pishoners of the same place to bee their pish Regestrar of Maryges Births and Burialls for the terme of three yeares or untell another bee chosen in his roome who was the 10th Daye of December 1653 appvd off and sworn by me.  
George Sampson"

The first entries record "the intention and purpose of marriage" between parties names "duly published 3 severall Lords Dayes" and Thomas Thring and Dorothy Stanbridge were the first couple married by "Maior George Sampson".

Examples of the various entries include -

John the sone of James Everdon the younger of Yeavell and Elizabeth Mitchell of Yeavell were married the 30th Daye of January solempnised by maior George Sampson, Justice in the presence of John Vaxt of Southpetherton, William Frye of Barwick. 1654.

The intention and purpose of marriage between Joshua George of the pish of the one pt and Hannah Bradrib of the Towne of Shaston (Shaftesbury) of the other pte hathe been duly published at the Market Crosse 3 Several Market dayes the last daye being the 4th daye of August. 1655.

The purpose of maryage between Wm Burt of Sparkeford and An Mamon of Ditcheat duely published at or publique market crosse 3 Severall market dayes, the last daye being 7th March.

Oct 21 1656. William Canneck was by me sworn Regestrar for the Towne and parishes of Evill he being thereunto elected by severall knowne honest men of the Sayde Town and parish.
John Pyne.

The last Market Cross entry is for 6 March 1656 and the last marriage entry conducted by "maior" George Sampson was on 5 May 1656 after which the record of births, marriages and burials continued as normal. The order for marriage by Justice only had always been resented by the people and, since the law continued until the Restoration in 1660, is appears that the people of Yeovil took advantage of the "Justice" provision in 1656 and went back to the Minister.

There is nothing to indicate where the marriages were "solempnised" as at Blandford, where it is said that they actually took place at the Market Cross. Most of the notices concerning Yeovil parties seem to have been made on "Lord's Dayes" and with one or two exceptions it was only in notices of marriage where one or both parties came from outlying parishes that the declaration was made at Yeovil Market Cross. This cross was in the Borough almost opposite the entrance to Wine Street and the remains of it were existing when the old Market House was taken down in 1849. It has entirely disappeared.