The 1754 Marriage Act set the age of consent at 21 in England, but in Scotland couples could still marry from the age of 14 by declaring their wish to be husband and wife in front of two witnesses. Many couples eloped to Gretna Green, just over the border, where the simple civil ceremony was performed by the local blacksmith over his anvil. This painting is based on a popular engraving by W. Matthews of Oxford, which bears the inscription: ‘GRETNA GREEN or the RED HOT MARRIAGE / Oh!Mr. Blacksmith ease our Pains and Tie us fast with Wedlock’s Chains.’ Artist unknown - initialled 'AB'.
Ceremony at Gretna Green 1907 © Compton Verney