It’s been a bit serious in the blog recently, so in an effort to lighten the tone a little, we thought we’d put together a list of the 5 most unusual pieces of legislation ever introduced over the years (or, to be more accurate, centuries). Some, remarkably, are true, others just urban myths. You decide which are which…

You may have already heard about Oliver Cromwell banning the eating of mince pies on Christmas Day. In fact, he even went so far as to ban Christmas, preferring it to be more religious (rather than an excuse to get drunk and be merry). History lesson now over.  You may even have already heard about pregnant women in the UK being allowed to relieve themselves anywhere they want, even in a policeman’s helmet.  However, here’s a top five (with a few more honourable mentions) of other (supposed) unusual legislation in the UK we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t have heard about:

(1)    Welshmen were forbidden from entering Chester at night. Specifically, they would have to wait until dawn before entering and leave before dusk. Welshmen would have to be particularly careful were they ever to find themselves caught in Chester on Sunday and after midnight, since it would be okay to shoot them with a crossbow.

(2)    If you’re a Scot and feeling pretty pleased yourself having read (1), think again. It was considered legal to shoot those Scotsman found in York (with a crossbow mind) at ANY time, except on Sundays.

One wonders whether there was actually a test for deciding whether a person was Welsh or Scottish. Would being half-Scot reduce the punishment? Perhaps the shot could only be aimed at certain limbs or go only so far as to partially maim you, rather than outright kill you? Maybe a compromise or deal could be reached, whereby the Scotsman would be allowed to move, or the shooter would be blind folded? One thing is for sure, we’d definitely recommend you seek legal advice first.

(3)    The Licensing Act 1872 states that you’ll be liable to a fine if found to be drunk while operating a carriage, steam engine or (can you believe) cattle?! Helpfully, the act didn’t extend to Scotland, in which case any Scot feeling aggrieved at not being able to visit York could (outside of a Sunday) at least exact some revenge by grabbing some beers and heading to the local cow field.

(4)    The Royal Prerogative, passed in 1324, stated that whales or sturgeon caught or washed up on British shores had to be offered to the Crown. In fact, in 2004 (yes, 2004, the 21st century), a fisherman was investigated after selling sturgeon caught in Swansea Bay. He had informed the Crown by fax and was told to keep it, but subsequently sold it, unaware that it was illegal to do so. I’m pleased to say he wasn’t prosecuted.

(5)    Do watch out if you’re into kite flying or beating rugs, carpets or mats (although you should be fine if it’s just a door mat and you do your shaking before 8.00 in the morning). “But what about hanging washing in the street?” I hear you shout. Yep, that’s out too. All punishable by fine, depending on if you live in the town or district where the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 applies.

Finally, a few honourable mentions from the good ol’ US of A (or, surely they can’t be true):

  •  If you live in California, you can’t kiss someone on the lips unless the kissor and kissee have both wiped their lips with carbonised rose water.
  •  In Arizona, you can’t have a donkey sleeping in your bathtub.
  •  In Maryland, lions can’t be taken to the cinema. Yes, it’s more than just frowned upon.

If you find yourself affected by any of the above issues, please don’t call any of our team. We will gladly help you with any of your contract, intellectual property, employment or corporate/commercial concerns. Contact us at or by phone 020 7234 0200.