A Victorian Wedding

You know when, in a crime drama, the investigating detective hands over a card to the person they’ve been questioning (who says they don’t know anuything), saying “If there’s anything you remember, however insignificant, call me!”
Its amazing how this can relate to researching history.  Not for the first time, sometimes relatively big discoveries can come from what others may think are insignificant details.
I was contacted by a lady who was commenting on the recent film about the Brown Bear and shed information which at first sounded like an interesting bit of family history, but which for a building detective like me became so much more.
Her story starts in July 1895 with the marriage of her grandparents, Ralph Morrison (from Dalserf in the Clyde Valley) and Marie Payn.  Marie was the daughter of Henri Payn.  He had a large part of the Lions Gardens and had a greengrocers shop at the corner of Crawfords Alley and Marygate.
The marriage seems to have been a bit of a scandal as the Payn family were staunch members of Holy Trinity Church and were unhappy that their only daughter was, as they saw it, being coerced into a Low Presbyterian Church marriage!  

Holy Trinity Church

So far so good; all good family history stuff.  Then it got interesting as my correspondent continued; “The gathering in the Assembly Room is family lore, but it came from three different sources, so I think it is true.  Apparently my Grandmother’s disapproving parents offered them a reception in their home.  My Grandfather took that as an insult and hired the Assembly Room for the reception.  It was, by all accounts, a fairly expensive venue.”
OK!  So was the old Brown Bear the lowly place that I had imagined from the photo.  Of course “expensive” is a relative term.  It sounds to me that the groom came from lower stock—Dalserf, was a small village in Lanarkshire.  It was traditional for the reception to be held at the home of the bride.  One gets the impression that Henri Payn was relatively prosperous so this would have been quite a snub.

So where was this Assembly Room.  There was a range of buildings at the back of the pub.  Was it there or above the pub?  In all likelihood the rear buildings were individual dwelling houses.  Might the story be referring to the next door Kings Arms Assembly Room? Now that would be expensive!

The Brown Bear would have been an ideal venue to host a reception at the Low Meeting House (Free Church).

Until 1880, by law, weddings had to be in the morning.  After 1880, the time was relaxed to 3pm.  People still talk of a “wedding breakfast” referring to a meal after the ceremony.  Because of the early ceremony then, the meal would have been a breakfast, or possibly in our terms, a brunch.  This would have been a fairly sober event with tea and cake, more akin to a buffet.  The 30–35 guests we know were there were probably standing rather than seated and so we can get an idea of the minimum size of the the Assembly Room!  As a rule of thumb, a person occupies 1 sq m.  The room was about 30 sq m so that matches, although they may have been packed like sardines!

The Assembly Room was definitely on an upper floor as we are given the tiniest detail that the bride tore her wedding dress when climbing the stairs.  And how might that have happened?  I don’t wear dresses but I can only imagine that (other than standing on it—unlikely as girls would be more used to wearing long dresses back then) it would be because it got caught on a splinter or similar, suggesting the stairs were quite narrow and not in the best condition further suggesting the pub was not particularly grand!

The Brown Bear in 1887. The partly open windows above must be the location of the Assembly Room.

And we know it must have been above the front of the pub as 1895 was a very hot summer and the family refers to all the windows on to Hide Hill having to be “opened wide”.  Possibly as the conditions may have been quite cramped.
So there’s a whole lot of stuff deduced from a couple of littlee details and a lovely “human interest story” that people love.  More soon!


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