Marriage: Love and Law exhibition catalogue - Page 24



Unlike the convict classes, free men and women did not have to seek
permission to marry. But their numbers were few in early colonial NSW,
and it was cohabitation rather than marriage, that defined the majority
of unions between men and women. Free couples could obtain a marriage
licence. Sometimes a special licence had to be secured. If, for example,
a woman was an ‘infant’—under the age of 16 years—then her father’s consent
to the marriage was required prior to the issuing of the licence. It was not
until the end of the penal era and the rise of the free settler society in the
mid-19th Century that the institution of marriage became the norm in NSW.
There was ambiguity around whether marriages solemnised outside the
Church of England were legally valid. A series of reforms between 1834 and
1855 confirmed the validity of marriages solemnised through the ‘Churches
of Scotland and Rome’. Later, this was extended to Jews and Quakers.

17 Parliament of NSW
No. 30. An Act to amend
and consolidate the laws
affecting the solemnization
of marriage
Vellum with tissue
interleaving, green silk
ribbon and embossed
paper seals
1855
NSW State Archives, NRS 13032
17
24
25

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