A Knobstick Wedding is the wedding of a pregnant single woman to
the putative father-to-be, under pressure from the parish vestry. The
churchwardens attended to see that the ceremony was performed, and
the name is derived from their staves of office."
Have you heard the remarkable story behind the Saxton-Brooks wedding,
recorded in "The Times", 6 Oct 1829?
I've wondered about the outcome - if and when it came to court.
Marriage entry from Wirksworth Parish Register:
M 1829aug22 SAXTON William(Sheffield YKS)/BROOKES Lydia
Witnesses: Edward CLOUGH,Samuel HANSON
"One of those illegal celebrations of matrimony which are termed by the
peasantry 'knobstick weddings', lately took place at Wirksworth. The
parties forced into the blessed state are William Saxton, a slender-witted
man, 24 years of age, and Lydia Brooks, some 15 years older, who has a
wooden leg, both of them paupers - the man chargeable to Sheffield, the
woman to Middleton, near Matlock". [i.e. the woman had just been removed
from Sheffield to Middleton as her legal place of settlement.]
The husband explained to the parish overseers that Liddie Brooks "whom I
never know'd, sweared a child on me as soon as she'd gotten to Middleton,
where you sent her. So when she'd swear'd it, they sent o'er for me to
filiate it; first of all they took me to Derby, and then, only because I
kno'd nothing about it, they remanded me to Wirksworth gaol. When I had
lied in gaol some time, the gentlemen I telled you of comes to me, and says
they: 'Why, man, you mun marry this lass'."
"Ay", says I: "I mun as well, sin you mak me father o' her bairns". Then
says they again: "If you don't you know you'll lie in gaol for a
twelvemonth, and happen be hanged after all. ... They gied me some liquor,
and I being scared, gied 'em my promise".
"In this state of drunkenness, without hat or shoes, handcuffed, the pauper
was taken from goal to Matlock, where a licence of marriage was procured and
paid for by the overseers. ... In the morning the overseers appeared before
the prison doors, and summoned the captive. To prevent mistakes, it was
thought proper that a pair of steel ruffles (handcuffs) should unite the
impatient groom to one of the overseers, and in this state, by a circuitous
route, the party reached the church of Wirksworth. Here, equally under the
influence of the parish guides, stood the wooden-legged bride; and here poor
Saxton, who had been frightened into a belief that no choice existed
between hanging and marrying, submitted to take for better of worse Lydia
Apparently the responsible overseers of the poor were afterwards summoned
before a magistrate ... "but being unable to give any explanation of their
conduct, they were held to bail to appear at the Derby sessions, to answer a
prosecution for fraudulently procuring the marriage of William Saxton with
Lydia Brooks, with the intent to defraud the township of Sheffield, who had
been removed from Sheffield to Middleton."
Jean Durbin writes:
There is a good report in the Times newspaper:
Philip BATEMAN & David WALKER were parish officers in Middleton & effected
to procure a marriage between William Saxon & Lydia Brooks. William said he
saw Lydia for the first time on 2nd Aug and was pressured to marry her on
the 13 Aug by the 2 defendants. He was promised money & threatened with
imprisonment. He was taken by gig to Chesterfield then taken back to
Wirksworth to be taken before the magistrate there. Presumably the
magistrates in Chesterfield wouldn't come to the party !
He was put in gaol for 3 days then taken to Matlock Bath where David Walker
paid for a marriage licence from a Rev Ward there. William then taken to
Wirksworth church and married to Lydia. Two days later William left Lydia.
David Walker was said to have a public house in Middleton. Both defendants
Best wishes Jean