Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A visit to Gretna Green on Holiday

Our recent holiday was to the top end of the Lakes, just five miles from Ulswater and Keswick.

We travelled over the boarder to Scotland and visited Gretna

Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh.

Gretna Green is one of the world's most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5000 weddings each year in the area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.

Gretna's famous "runaway marriages" began in 1753 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act was passed in England; it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then parents had to consent to the marriage. The Act did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent (see Marriage in Scotland). Many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they encountered was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith's opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests".

Since 1929 both parties in Scotland have had to be at least 16 years old, but they still may marry without parental consent. In England and Wales, the age for marriage is now 16 with parental consent and 18 without.