Over the years, many commonplace activities have been declared illegal in England. While the reasoning behind these bans may have made sense to some at the time, many of them seem absurd, impractical, or downright silly to us today.
10 – Playing Football
Football might be a beloved sport to millions of people today, but not to King Edward II and many of his successors. In the 1300s, King Edward II banned football because it distracted people from practicing archery, a much more appropriate pastime for the people of England. Considering the fact that the King was gearing up for war with Scotland, the ban is understandable.
Besides, football back then was not as organized as the football of today. It was still played by opposing teams, but those teams could be whole towns with thousands of people trying to get the ball into a small net or into the church of the opposing town.
King Edward III also banned football along with several other activities in 1349 because it distracted people from practicing archery. This time, the Black Plague had decimated a large chunk of his army. Edward III’s successor, Richard II, tried banning it in 1389, too, and so did his successors, Henry IV and Henry V.
Football was banned in Manchester in the 17th century—not so that everyone could focus on archery, but because players often broke windows.
9 – Selling Wine In Bottles
The invention of the coal furnace in the 17th century allowed for the production of thicker glass. This meant that wine, which used to be stored in clay pots, could now be stored in glass bottles. This also meant that since there was no standard volume for a wine bottle, the bottles and the wine inside were of varying volumes.
In some areas, a bottle of wine could be 600 milliliters (20 oz) while in others, it could be as much as 800 milliliters (27 oz). This may have been simply because the glassblowers in different areas had different lung capacities; the more air the glassblower could blow, the bigger the bottle. This complicated the sales of wine since it was almost impossible for buyers to know how much wine they were getting. This led several countries, including England, to issue laws banning the sale of wine in bottles.
The English monarchy later lifted the ban. The size of a bottle of wine gradually standardized to 750 milliliters (25 oz), and the standard has been adopted across Europe, the United States, and Canada.
8 – Driving Alone
One of the major flaws of the first traffic rules was inconsistency. They differed from city to city, street to street, and, in some cases, car to car. The nonuniformity and complexity of the rules ended up causing more accidents instead of preventing them.
The Locomotive On Highway Act, introduced by the British parliament in 1861, was meant to standardize all vehicular laws. It was reviewed in 1861 when it was agreed that all vehicles were to be operated by three people: a driver, a stocker (who fed coal into the engines because gas-fueled engines were still a nascent technology in the 1860s), and a man carrying a red flag and a lantern. The man with the flag and lantern was to accompany the car on foot so that he could warn other road users that a vehicle was coming. At the same time, he would slow down the vehicle because he walked at a much slower pace. The Red Flag Act remained in effect until 1896.
7 – Christmas
While it might sound strange, Christmas was banned in both England and New England between 1644 and 1660 by Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England. Oliver Cromwell, along with Puritan members of parliament, believed the merrymaking and festivities observed during Christmastime were acts of sin and insults to God.
Celebrating Christmas became a punishable offense, and consumption of Christmas foods like mince pie and pudding was forbidden. Similar laws were passed in Puritan colonies in America, where town criers would go around the day before Christmas and shout, “No Christmas, no Christmas!” The ban remained in place for almost 20 years, during which people secretly celebrated Christmas across England. When the British monarchy returned to power in 1660, it overruled all laws passed since 1642, effectively lifting the ban on Christmas.
6 – Beating Or Shaking Rugs, Carpets, And Mats In The Street
The Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 was not just one weird law, but a series of weird laws that could lead to 14 days of imprisonment and a fine of £200, if one was lucky. The act forbade people from beating or shaking any rug, carpet, or mat on any street. The only exemption was doormats, provided the beatings and shakings were done before 8:00 AM. The flying of kites was also banned, along with making use of slides whenever it was snowy or rainy.
Throwing anything apart from snow on the streets was forbidden, and so was putting anything other than sand on the streets. The only time citizens could put other things on the street was when they wanted to prevent their pipes from freezing, accidents, or when they were sick and did not want to be disturbed with noise. The Town Police Clauses Act also made it illegal for a chimney to catch fire, even if it was an accident.