When a woman fell pregnant with a child likely to be born illegitimate, she was legally obliged to notify her parish of settlement at least forty days prior to the expected birth, and submit to a Bastardy Examination (EP). In practice such examinations were frequently held after the birth, and were held before two Justices of the Peace. The examination was directed at forcing the mother to swear to the name of the father of the child. This in turn allowed the parish to seek an indemnity from the named father against any charges it might incur in supporting the child and mother. Fathers who could be identified in this way were obliged to enter into Bastardy Bonds to ensure that they paid regular support to the mother and child. If they failed to pay this support, they were legally obliged to pay the parish a substantial sum in compensation, often to the amount of £60 to £80.
The amounts involved were such that few men could indemnify the parish from their own resources, and friends and relatives, as sureties, were normally required to sign the bond as well.
The documents in this category included on this website are from the parish of St Dionis Backchurch. They take a regular form, and include a standard text modelled on published examples. The elements of the document specific to each case include the names of the father, mother, parish officers, and the father's sureties. These are the actual legal documents binding the father and his sureties. Similar documents with related examinations can be found in manuscript Sessions Papers (PS) and Registers of Securities (RR), abstracting the same information as Bastardy Bonds but not forming legally binding documents. These can also be found for other parishes, in particular for St Clement Danes.
- Black, John. Who Were the Putative Fathers of Illegitimate Children in London, 1740-1810? In Levene, Alysa; Williams, Samantha; and Nutt, Thomas, eds, Illegitimacy in Britain, 1700-1920. Basingstoke, 2005.
- Black, John. Illegitimacy, Sexual Relations and Location in Metropolitan London, 1735-85. In Hitchcock, Tim and Shore, Heather, eds, The Streets of London: from the Great Fire to the Great Stink. 2003.
- Evans, Tanya. "Unfortunate Objects": Lone Mothers in Eighteenth-Century London. 2005.
- Hindle, Steve. On the Parish?: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c.1550-1750. Oxford, 2004.
For further reading on this subject see the London Lives Bibliography.
- St Dionis Backchurch, Bonds and Warrant Papers, 1775, 1806, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 19234/1, LL ref: GLDBWB31000, Tagging Level: D