Stamp duty and authenticity of legal documentsPosted: 03 Sep 2012
As this is the first post in the 50 Marriage Mondays series, I will start with a marriage for which I have original documentation with a good provenance.
Bride: Kate Emeline Witts
Groom: George Henry Adams
Date: 3 September 1904
Location: Christ Church, Sparkbrook, Birmingham
Type: established church by banns
Ended by: death of George on 16 January 1951
Duration of marriage: 46 years, 4 months, 13 days
This original marriage certificate filled out by the officiating vicar on the day of the marriage. It was passed down to the couple’s grandson (Eric), so there seems little doubt about it origins. If that were not the case, how could you be sure that is a genuine document? It bears no Royal Arms to represent the Crown’s authority, or the name any government body, and does not refer to any law. None-the-less it is a valid legal document.
The one penny stamp indicates that stamp duty was paid. Stamp duty was a tax on documents, especially legal documents. Stamp duties have been levied on many different kinds of documents, but were first levied on the registration of births, deaths and marriages in 1783. The system of using an adhesive penny postage stamp, introduced in 1853, was both convenient and effective. The Stamp Duties Management Act 1870 included a penny tax on ‘copies of registers of births & c.’ Stamps marked ‘Postage and Revenue’ were introduced in 1881. If you want an insight into how the system worked, take a look at the Stamp Duties Management Act 1891. By the time of this marriage (1904) King George V was monarch, so it is his head that is depicted on the stamp.
A more subtle indication of the certificate’s authenticity is the name of the printers, ‘Waterlow and Sons’. This large company’s portfolio included legal stationery, stamps and even bank notes.
 Dowell, Stephen (1888) A History of Taxation and Taxes in England from the Earliest Times to the Year 1885. Vol III. Direct Taxes and Stamp Duties. 2nd ed. London: Longmans Green & Co. Available online http://archive.org/details/historyoftaxatio03doweuoft Accessed 20 August 2012. p. 300.
 Dowell pp. 306-307
 Dowell pp. 305