FLEET MARRIAGES: The name applied to a class of clandestine and more or less irregular marriages performed by chaplains of the Fleet Prison in London during the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth centuries. In order to regulate the disorders in regard to marriage which the Reformation had introduced, a law was passed under the Commonwealth (1653) permitting civil marriage before a justice of the peace. At the Restoration the earlier law was reestablished and strictly enforced; but clandestine marriages, avoiding the regular alternatives of banns or license, were still possible, since there were a number of churches in which on the plea of exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, the law could be disregarded. The Fleet Prison, or the territory legally held to belong to it, was a favorite place for these marriages. Disreputable clergymen here made a trade of marrying all corners, without respect to the fulfilment of any necessary conditions, and shameless competition among them led to the greatest laxity. From 1666 various attempts were made to suppress the evil, but it rather increased, until it was possible for one abandoned man, named John Gayhan, who was technically a prisoner there from 1701 to 1740, to boast that during that time he had performed 36,000 marriages. Finally in 1753 a bill was introduced into the House of Lords by Hardwicke, the Lord Chancellor, "for the better preventing of clandestine marriages," and became a law on June 6. Its working was not altogether satisfactory in detail, and later enactments, especially in 1823, were required to amend it, until a final settlement of all difficulties was made under William IV. in 1834 and 1836.