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Family History: Why so many marriages in Manchester Cathedral?

Why were there so many marriages held at Manchester Cathedral in the early 19th century? That's a question that puzzles many who enter the registers. We are all familiar with Manchester Cathedral, but do you know of its history?

Article by Henry Mantell

The current building is believed to be the second parish church in Manchester, and was begun around 1215. King Henry V chartered the church as a collegiate foundation in 1421 and the building was expanded many times since. It remained a parish church until 1847 when it became Manchester Cathedral on formation of the Diocese of Manchester, formerly part of the Diocese of Chester.

But why so many marriages and christenings?

Under the requirements of Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act from 25 March 1754 only those marriages (other than those of Quakers or Jews) celebrated in the established church were valid.

The Collegiate Church of Manchester was the Parish Church for the parish of Manchester. This parish was of course very large geographically and the phenomenal population growth of 18th and 19th centuries had resulted in insufficient churches.

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

However this was further complicated by the Collegiate foundation since 1421.

The warden and fellows took the view that under this charter they could claim fees for any marriage within the geographical parish of Manchester. This created a long running dispute which affected anyone within Manchester intending to marry!

St Georges Church Hulme
St Georges Church Chester Rd Hulme

By 1839 there were at least 27 consecrated chapels or churches within the parish, but St Georges Hulme, St Philip’s Salford and St Matthew’s Campfield had districts assigned to them and were authorised to celebrate marriages.

However, anyone marrying had to pay a fee both to the local clergyman officiating and to the Warden and Fellows of the Collegiate Church!

In practice it was cheaper to marry at the Collegiate Church and to return there for subsequent family christenings

The marriage and baptism registers are therefore unusual to the family historian in that on a 7 days a week basis, industrial quantities of marriages and christenings took place!

Take Sunday 13 October 1839 as an example, over 50 christenings are recorded by the parish clerk!

The pecuniary interest of the warden and fellows and the sheer size of the geographical boundary mean that anyone now seeking a marriage in Manchester prior to 1847 should examine the Collegiate Church Record, as the majority but not all are likely to be found there.

The creation of the Cathedral in 1847 ended what had become a long dispute between the Warden and other clergy, unaffected by the 1754 Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriages.

For anyone seeking ancestors in Manchester the following may prove useful Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Manchester Central Library hold microfilm collection www.manchester.gov.uk/libraries/arls/register/inde.html

If searching from further a field go to the International Genealogical Index which covers the parish through controlled extraction on www.familysearch.org

It is also noteworthy that the parish registers are on microfilm and these can be ordered from any Family History Centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

To locate a local centre in the UK go to www.lds.org.uk for outside UK go to www.lds.org and click on family history on the left side bar.

Henry Mantell was educated at Xaverian College Manchester where he was introduced to Latin by a Latin master called Mr. Diamond, who not only spoke the language, but introduced Henry to the Latin Parish registers of Manchester Cathedral as a school project! Henry has since transcribed a number of Latin parish registers! He continues to do so despite being chronically ill.

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