Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, which came into force in 1754, made marriages in England and Wales legal only if they were performed in a building licensed for that purpose. Runaway couples therefore crossed the border into Scotland, where marriage could take place by mere consent, in the presence of witnesses, without even a priest. Gretna Green is the best‐known of these places, but businesses whose sole purpose it was to perform such ceremonies were set up by men in various border settlements, including Alison's Toll Bar, Lamberton Toll Bar, Sark Toll Bar, Springfield, and Coldstream. Some of the marriage registers of these places have survived. See G. S. Chrichton, ‘Irregular Border Marriages’, Genealogists' Magazine, 20/8 (1981).
Lord Brougham's Marriage Act 1856 made it necessary to obtain a licence to marry if neither partner had been resident in the proposed place of marriage during the preceding 21 days. From 1878 marriages in Scotland could be performed only in buildings licensed for that purpose. Marriage by consent was abolished in 1940.