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This is the text of the document I referred to, as far as I can transcribe it. The sections in capitals are hand-written.

Click here to see the document itself (or at least a scan of a photocopy of it).

Know all men by these presents that we SAMUEL WILMUTT OF THE PARISH OF BATHEASTON IN THE COUNTY OF SOMERSET, CARPENTER, AND MATTHEW TEMPLE OF ST. MICHAEL'S IN THE COUNTY OF BATH, SERVANT, are held and firmly bound to THE R. REVD. FATHER IN GOD, CHARLES BY DIVINE PERMISSION LORD BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS in TWO HUNDRED pounds of lawful Money of Great Britain to be paid to the said RIGHT REVD. FATHER or his certain Attorney Executors Administrators or Assigns for the true payment whereof we bind ourselves and EACH of us by himself for the whole and every part thereof and the heirs Executors and Administrators of us and EACH of us firmly by these presents sealed with our seals. Dated the EIGHTEENTH day of OCTOBER in the THIRTIETH year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord GEORGE YE 3rd by the Grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King defender of the faith and in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven Hundred AND NINETY

The Condition of this Obligation is such That if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful Let or Impediment by reason of any PreContract entered into before the twentyfifth Day of March One Thousand Seven Hundred and fifty four Consanguinity Affinity or any other lawful Means whatsoever but that THE ABOVE NAMED SAMUEL WILLMUT AND CHARLOTTE LEWIS OF THE PARISH OF BATHEASTON IN THE Co. OF SOMERSET may lawfully solemnize Marriage together and in the same afterwards lawfully remain and continue for Man and Wife according to the Laws in that behalf provided And moreover if there be not at this present Time any Action Suit Plaint Quarrel or Demand moved or depending before any judge Ecclesiastical or Temporal for or touching any such lawful Impediment between the said parties nor that either of them be of any other Parish or of better Estate or Degree than to this Judge at granting of the Licence is suggested and by SAM. WILLMUT sworn to BEFORE NATHANIEL MORGAN CLERK, M.G. SURROGATE

And lastly if the same marriage shall be openly solemnized in the Church or Chapel in the (Licence) specified between the hours appointed in the Constitutions Ecclesiastical confirmed and according to the Form of the Book of Common Prayer now by Law established And if the above bounden SAML. WILLMUT AND M. TEMPLE do save harms the said R. REVD. FATHER his surrogates and others his Officers whatsoever by Reason of the Premises then this Obligation to be void or else to remain in full force and Virtue

Sealed and delivered in the presence of

Translated into plain English, this means (as far as I can tell):

1. Samuel Willmut and Matthew Temple bind themselves (also their heirs, executors and administrators) to pay the Bishop of Bath & Wells the then very considerable sum of 200.

2. As a condition of this obligation Samuel is allowed to marry Charlotte Lewis provided there are no conditions preventing this.

3. Provided the marriage is in all ways legal, the obligation to pay the 200 is cancelled.

Legalese is supposed to make a document entirely unambiguous to prevent subsequent disputes: but reading all this jargon (with some difficulty, as you will see if you look at the original document on the next page) I can only conclude that it like many legal documents of the period it is deliberately framed to intimidate the layman.

I was intrigued by this document, so I sent a query about it to the Notes & Queries page of the newspaper The Guardian (where readers can offer answers to queries posed by other readers). Tom Hennell of Manchester (letter published on 25-11-99) pointed out that no less a person than William Shakespeare had signed a similar bond in November 1582 (for 40) so that he could marry Anne Hathaway with only one reading of the banns - Anne was three months pregnant, and if they hadn't married before Advent (December 2nd) they would have had to wait another six weeks. (The banns are an announcement of the forthcoming wedding read in church for three successive weeks to alert anyone who might present a legal impediment such as a pre-existing marriage.)

The similarities with Samuel's case are considerable - Mr. Hennell says the money would be an indemnity against the possibilty of legal proceedings arising from the Bishop's grant of a licence without the full period before the wedding, which in this case took place only six days after the signing of the original form. Samuel and Charlotte's first child, Susannah, was born on February 14th 1791 - less than four months later.

James Phillips-Evans, who emailed me with details of two earlier generations than I had knowledge of, says of this document: 'it's a simple marriage bond which accompanied an allegation before a licence was granted, very common to a genealogist and the amount of money is really immaterial as very few people would ever come into contact with the kind of money that they were 'bonding', it was just a way of saying that there was no impediment to the marriage and you would stake 'x' amount of money on this being the truth.'

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