15 Hilarious British Laws That Are Mind-Bogglingly Real

The United Kingdom has a rich and extensive history. This might not be more apparent than in the country’s legal history, with strange laws spanning from not wearing armor into the House of Parliament to ladies not eating chocolate on public transportation. Some laws are still enforced, but others are not. While this is definitely not a complete list of the UK’s absurd, funny, and sometimes downright weird laws, these fifteen laws will have you laughing. 

1) Under an 1839 law, it’s illegal to knock on a door and walk away. So if you tried playing the Victorian equivalency of “ding, dong, ditch,” you might have found yourself in prison. 

2) A law in 1313 made it illegal to enter the House of Parliament in a suit of armor. 

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Don’t think of walking into the House of Parliament in a suit of armor! (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, dewey_decimals, CC BY-SA 2.0)

3) Since 1839, it’s been illegal to shake or beat any carpet or rug in London’s streets. But don’t worry! If you’re concerned about your doormat, that’s legal—as long as it’s before 8am. 

4) Until 1976, cars were required to carry at least one bale of hay. This law was created in the 1800s for horse-drawn carriages. The hay was to feed the horses, since it was illegal to stop in a traffic-ingested street to hand-feed a horse from a bag. 

5) The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 forbade kite-flying if it annoyed passengers or inhabitants. Anyone who broke this law faced a £500 fine. Considering salaries for the working class of the time period (i.e. a coachman made £40 a year, a cook made £50 a year, and scullery maids made a measly £12), it was probably best to leave that kite at home. 

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The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 forbade kite-flying if it annoyed passengers or inhabitants. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, KoS, Public Domain)

6) It’s illegal to carry rabid dogs in a taxi. What I want to know is what happened to make this law necessary? Did someone decide to take their rabid dog into a taxi while traveling to the vet? Or is it a weirder reason than that?

7) Being drunk was absolutely illegal! Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 made it illegal to be drunk in a pub, highway, or any other public space, including buildings. Anyone who violated this law was looking at a £200 fine. 

8) The Licensing Act of 1872 made it illegal to operate a steam engine, horse, or cow while intoxicated. Who knew cows needed to be “operated”?

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“Operating” cows while intoxicated was deemed illegal under the Licensing Act of 1872. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Kim Hansen, CC BY-SA 3.0)

9) Apparently a lot of Victorian gentlemen and blokes enjoyed gambling in libraries, because the Library Offenses Act of 1898 made this illegal. This law also made it illegal to act violently or disorderly, speak in an abusive manner, or not leave the library before closing if properly warned. The gambling section of the law was repealed in 2005, so it’s important to ask here, will gambling in UK libraries become a trend again?

10) On the Lancashire coast, if you encourage your dog to bark, you might be given a fine. 

11) Keeping pigs outside your home, without any fencing, could have landed you a £1000 fine! All thanks to The Town Police Clauses Act of 1847.

12) Section 55 of the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 makes it illegal to fire a canon within 300 yards of a dwelling. This law is still enforced. 

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Firing a canon within 300 yards of a dwelling was illegal. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

13) This one is just cruel! It was once illegal for women to eat chocolate on public transportation, such as trains or coaches. This law no longer exists—thank God!

14) This law is up there amongst the weirdest… Common dogs are not allowed to breed with royal dogs. So if your dog gets loose, hope it doesn’t mate with the Queen’s dogs!

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Common dogs mating with royal dogs is against the law! (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, tml_fan_1313, CC BY 2.0)

15) Here’s the best for last! Possibly the weirdest law is section 32 of the Salmon Act 1986. This law forbids anyone from “handling salmon in suspicious circumstances.” No idea what it means?! But it’s a law.

Sources:

The 10 obscure UK laws you probably didn’t know existed by Raymond Brown

10 Strangest British Laws by Vince Graff

Costs and Wages in Great Britain by Christopher Hibbert

Do taxi drivers need to carry a bale of hay in their boot by law? on the Southampton Hackney Association

Legal Curiosities: Fact or Fable?, created by the UK’s Law Commission’s Statute Law
Repeals team

Odd Laws of the United Kingdom by Clare Feikert-Ahalt

That’s barking mad! Bizarre pet laws reveal it’s illegal to mimic an animal in Miami – and French pigs can’t be called Napoleon by Sarah Griffiths

Top Five Weirdest Traffic Laws In the UK 

3 thoughts on “15 Hilarious British Laws That Are Mind-Bogglingly Real

  1. I hope there’s no such law as #5 in America, as on Jan. 20, we intend to tell Trump to GO FLY A KITE, and we certainly don’t want him not to go because there’s a law against it (not that breaking the law has been a problem for him up to now).

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  2. Another curious law, or, rather, a set of laws. Thanks to several laws passed since 1948, there are SIX classes of British citizenship, each with its own peculiar quirks.

    One of the weird consequences of these laws played out in Australia(!) a few years ago. It’s illegal for an Australian MP to be a dual citizen. No one had enforced this. So it was a shock when it was revealed several members were indeed dual citizens, holding British citizenship as well. All but one were forced to resign.

    Why wasn’t one of the Australian MPs forced to resign? He had what is called British overseas territory citizenship, which doesn’t (usually) carry the right to live in Britain, so the Australian Supreme Court ruled it wasn’t really what was meant by a second citizenship!

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