The Woman who Married in her Shift

This story has been in and out of fashion. It was mentioned in Tyack's 'Lore and Legend of the English Church', in Brand's 'Popular Antiquities' and twice in issues of the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, but last century Canner discounted it as untrue in his History of Chitterne. Now, thanks to some research by Steve Hobbs and David Carter at the new Wiltshire History Centre at Chippenham, I can add it to the Chitterne website history pages in the knowledge that it is true, if a little different to the original tale.

The wedding of John Bridmore and Anne Selwood, both of Chitterne All Saints, took place on 17th October 1714. The bride wore nothing but her smock or shift for the ceremony as in those days it was generally believed that in so doing she would come to be joined in marriage free of previous debts, thus relieving her husband-to-be of the need to settle any of her accounts still owing.

Canner discounted this particular story because he had been unable to find any reference to the marriage in either the Chitterne All Saints or the Chitterne St Mary parish registers. However, it turns out that they were not married in Chitterne at all, but at Orcheston St Mary, a village even smaller than Chitterne and four or five miles distant. Perhaps Anne was too modest to present herself in such a state of undress before her own parish priest.