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Bletchley historian John Taylor takes a look at marriage down the ages....

Romantic encounters
Bracknell House in 1978.

Sunday Citizen April 15, 2001

The wild bird woos his mate with long and melliferous song; and woman feels it her right to expect homage before marriage.'

So philosophised one contributor to the early newspapers but in today's throwaway society it sadly seems that even marriage has almost became a disposable commodity.

In a previous age, when through either social conditions, circumstance or religious belief, marriage was considered a lifetime commitment, one might optimistically have expected the pillars of local society to set an example beyond reproach - but sadly no!

An eighteenth century Fenny Stratford doctor expected rather more than domestic servitude from his maid and the birth of the resulting child was quietly - but hurriedly - hushed up.

Then, in the following century, as the sole manager of a local school, 'in a glaring infringement of the Education Act', the Reverend promptly sacked the schoolmaster, when he learned that the schoolmaster's wife was

expecting her second child! - This was even despite Her Majesty's Inspector having declared himself completely satisfied with the running of the school and that at the resulting enquiry the Chairman pronounced the dismissal illegal.

Not surprisingly the matter was taken further.

Illicit liaisons

As for illicit liaisons, these could provoke social outrage and when it was discovered that a girl in a local village was 'carrying on' with a married man from a neighbouring village, the locals grabbed pots, pans and whatever else came to hand and drummed her out, never to return.

As always, in times of national distress, when the prospects of a continued mortality become ever less certain, romantic encounters become heightened and with a large military contingent stationed in the town, during the First World War many couples were hauled before the beak for 'laying in the mowing grass'.

Ten shillings was the usual fine but some young ladies acquired a more permanent legacy and the 1918 report of the North Bucks Association for Preventative and Rescue Work stated that 69 girls had been admitted to the shelter in the High Street where four babies - perhaps as less obvious casualties of war - had already been baptised.

As for one of the more prominent military personalities from that period, John French had married Eleanora, one of the 'Eight Belles' Selby Lowndes daughters and they made their early home at Bracknell House, ironically now the Register office.

In later years the marriage unfortunately faltered but the grave of Eleanora, who survived her husband by 16 years, may be seen in Bletchley churchyard