1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gretna Green

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GRETNA GREEN, or Graitney Green, a village in the south-east of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, about 8 m. E. of Annan, 9 m. N.N.W. of Carlisle, and 3/4 m. from the river Sark, here the dividing-line between England and Scotland, with a station on the Glasgow & South-Western railway. The Caledonian and North British railways have a station at Gretna on the English side of the Border. As the nearest village on the Scottish side, Gretna Green was notorious as the resort of eloping couples, who had failed to obtain the consent of parents or guardians to their union. Up till 1754, when Lord Hardwicke’s act abolishing clandestine marriages came into force, the ceremony had commonly been performed in the Fleet prison in London. After that date runaway couples were compelled to seek the hospitality of a country where it sufficed for them to declare their wish to marry in the presence of witnesses. At Gretna Green the ceremony was usually performed by the blacksmith, but the toll-keeper, ferryman or in fact any person might officiate, and the toll-house, the inn, or, after 1826, Gretna Hall was the scene of many such weddings, the fees varying from half a guinea to a sum as large as impudence could extort or extravagance bestow. As many as two hundred couples were married at the toll-house in a year. The romantic traffic was practically, though not necessarily, put an end to in 1856, when the law required one of the contracting parties to reside in Scotland three weeks previous to the event.