To my knowledge wife sales on Wednesbury market were a bit of a family legend my great-grandfather used to tell. However, it seems to be more widely spread than that. I have found an article which tries to explain the reasons for wife sales and indeed indicates that they were conducted on Wednesbury market?

Is this a spoof article (it doesn't seem to be from an academic journal)? Are wife sales (and in particular wife sales on Wednesbruy market) a myth?

1 Answer 1


They are not a myth, no.

Wife selling in England was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage by mutual agreement that probably began in the late 17th century, when divorce was a practical impossibility for all but the very wealthiest.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife_selling_(English_custom) -(I know, wikipedia isn't 100%)

It was simply due to women had no real rights when married, and marriage wasn't registered, so men could just "pass on" the woman and the marriage.

Another source that list a series of claimed evens of such sales: http://www.ontalink.com/history/18th_century/regions/British/wife_selling.html

Dated 1720 from an old magazine known as "Lloyd's,"

We were lately witnesses of a case of wife-selling in an old town in South Staffordshire. It appeared that the husband had set his affections on another woman, and his wife hearing of it, had very justly showed their displeasure in a variety of ways; whereupon the husband, who was a collier, took her to the marketplace, and sold her to the highest bidder for five shillings. There was much excitement in the crowd which assembled to witness the act, and the affair ended with a good deal of drinking at the expense of the husband and the purchaser."

While no clear indication of sales happening in Wednesbury market, the fact it was supposedly a marked during the time these wife sales are said to happen, indicates it is quite possible. While I can't find exact moment of when the area became an actual market, there is a reference to a time indicating things started to happen:

In 1315, coal pits were first recorded, which led to an increase in the number of jobs. Nail making was also in progress during these times.


  • In 1720 Wednesbury was an small old town in south Staffordshire. Boundaries have moved since then, and it is more populated now.
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 15:44

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