Church Record Sunday: St James's Church, Westminster

Last Tuesday, I retraced the steps of my great-great-grandparents, William Elbert Dando and Sarah Louisa Oliver, when I paid a visit to St James's Church, Westminster, where the couple married on 11th October 1875.

St James's Church, Piccadilly, London
St James's Church, Piccadilly, London

My visit to London was a fleeting one but I managed to spend 20 minutes inside the somewhat ornate church with its impressively high, decorative ceiling. There was a small service taking place in the side chapel so I didn't feel at liberty to move around the building. As I sat, I tried to imagine my ancestors standing before the altar more than 135 years ago.
William and Sarah married by licence, perhaps somewhat hurriedly as Sarah had recently become pregnant with my great-grandfather.

William Elbert Dando & Sarah Louisa Oliver's Marriage Certificate held at the National Archives
William Elbert Dando & Sarah Louisa Oliver's Marriage Certificate
(click the image for a larger version)

Divorce Petition papers held at the National ArchivesTheir home was in Regent Street, a short stroll from the church which is situated in Piccadilly. Had it been built at that stage, they would most likely have travelled past the Statue of Eros (Cupid) on the way to the ceremony. Nevertheless, the statue wasn't erected until almost 20 years later and sadly the marriage was over within 2 years when Sarah left William who promptly petitioned for divorce. The photograph on the right is of the divorce file which is kept at the National Archives. The case was publicised in the press when it came to court and reveals just how acrimonious the situation between the couple had become (further details can be found on William or Sarah's biography pages).

William lost the divorce case but this didn't deter him from 'marrying' once more when he, his new bride-to-be, Emma, his mother-in-law-to-be and William and Sarah's son, Charles, travelled to New York in 1884 for what was presumably a bigamous union, nine years to the day after he'd wed Sarah. It wasn't until 1890 that Sarah finally obtained a judicial separation from William and as far as I know, they were never legally divorced.

More photos of St James's Church can be viewed in my web gallery.

Category: Ancestors Corner

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