Kinwarton parish was once one of the smallest parishes in Warwickshire, both in area and population. The rector there, however, could ease his conscience because he also had charge of Great Alne.
In a recent issue we pointed to the varied archaeological sites near Kinwarton church. Another feature is of some interest, namely a period in the early part of the 18th century, when young couples found this church an attractive place in which to be married.
Having such a small population, Kinwarton could not be expected to provide more than one or two weddings each year -and so the church marriage register records. However, between the 1720s and 1745 there was a great increase in marriages - up to 30 of them annually. During this period there were three rectors at Kinwarton and it must be assumed that all of them employed a conscious policy of marrying couples from parishes far from Kinwarton, e.g. in 1721 fourteen couples came from the same parish: the register notes couples from Loxley, Feckenham, Bidford, Henley and other places in a twenty mile radius of Kinwarton. There were couples, also, from neighbouring places, such as Coughton and Spernall, Great Alne and Alcester, Tredington and Pillerton.
Kinwarton thus became a 'Gretna Green' not for the country, or even for Warwickshire, but for south Warwickshire and east Worcestershire. The result of these marriages meant an increase in the benefice income and, no doubt, the rector from 1705 to 1724 (William Edes) encouraged these run-away weddings. John Benson (1724 - 1739) evidently carried on the 'trade' quite happily; during his incumbency Kinwarton must have become a by-word for young couples who wanted to escape the censure of their parents.
John Flayer (Rector 1740 - 1764) probably decided to overturn what had by then become an established practice and in his incumbency the numbers of marriages returned to their original norm. Another reason for this was the Hardwicke Act of 1753, which was forced on the government by the scandal of many churches in England acting as Kinwarton had done. From thenceforth, banns of intentions of marriage must be published in the parishes of both bride and bridegroom, so the veil of secrecy no longer applied and Kinwarton and its like lost their appeal.
Summer 1997 Index