BANNS OF MARRIAGE
On most Sundays in the year Publication of Banns can be heard at the Parish Church of St. Mary, Feltwell. The term Banns is derived from a Saxon word signifying to proclaim and so we speak of publishing or calling Banns. Publication of Banns dates back to the year 1200, when it was ordered that no marriage should take place without Banns thrice published in the Church, previous to which there was no solemnization of marriage in the Church; the man came to the house where the woman dwelt and led her home to his own house; there was no other ceremony. This gave rise to the expression found in old Church Registers of "duxit in matrimonio," i.e. led in marriage, or merely "duxit," i.e. led; and to this day we speak of leading a woman to the Altar.
The old Norfolk word for Banns of Marriage is Sybrits, or Sibbets as it is often called and spelt; and it is by no means obsolete. I once questioned an elderly parishioner of mine on the use of the word; he said something about it still being in going gears, and not feeling satisfied with his reply I approached a certain young lady who was being courted; after giving her the seal of the dav, I asked if her sybrits should be put up on Sunday; the immediate reply "you will do no such thing"-- settled the matter.
During the Commonwealth, Banns of Marriage could be, and often were, published in the nearest Market Place on three successive Market Days, and on production of a Certificate the parties could then be married by a Justice of the Peace.
In parts of Lincolnshire, and elsewhere, when Banns were called it was the custom for the clerk to say, "God speed them well." In some cases, the oldest man in the congregation, and not the clerk, would give the God speed. This beautiful custom of "Blessing the Couple," as it was called, has long since died out.
Occasionally in old Banns Books there are entries of fines for "Mocking the Church." If Banns were forbidden and there was no marriage in consequence; or if Banns were duly published and no marriage took place, the parties concerned were said to Mock the Church and were fined accordingly.
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