8 bizarre laws you may not know exist in England

Every country has some pretty obscure laws, and England is no different.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 15th October 2021

Every country and city has some pretty bizarre laws to its name.

Take Milan, for example, where it’s a legal requirement to smile in public at all times, unless you’re attending a funeral or in a hospital, or the Australian state of Victoria, were it’s illegal to change a light bulb unless you’re a registered electrician, and you can’t be going forgetting your wife’s birthday in Samoa, because that’s against the law too.

But did you know that there’s plenty of bizarre laws in England as well?

Of course, we wouldn’t manage to just fly under the radar when it comes to obscure and somewhat archaic laws, would we?

And there’s a good chance you could have broken on or two of them over your lifetime too, as the vast majority of the population aren’t even aware of their existence.


So, believe it or not, here are eight laws that somehow still stand in England to this day.



1. Walking Cows Down the Street in Daylight

Ever done this?

Let’s face it, this is a fairly niche law to break.

There’s a pretty good chance you haven’t tried walking a herd of cows down a public highway at any time of day, but just for future reference if you ever find yourself in this situation, it is actually against the law in England to do this during daylight hours.


The Metropolitan Streets Act states that: “Cattle are not to be driven through streets within certain hours.”

As explained by Oxbridge, the law originated “back in 1867 [when] section seven of the act forbade cattle lovers and farmers alike to walk their prized livestock during the day. Unless given permission from the Commissioner of Police himself, if you were caught rallying your precious bovines down the street between 10am and 7pm, you would have been committing a crime.”

2. Using Your Phone to Pay at a Drive-Thru

Now, this is one that a good number of us will probably have to hold our hands up to.

You may not have walked cows down the street in daylight, but who’s remembering to turn off their car engine and engage the handbrake before paying for a Maccie’s with Apple Pay?

According to Oxbridge once again: “The law is incredibly strict about the using phones behind the wheel of a car. Even if you’re tapping a contactless pad with your phone at a drive-through to pay for a meal, if your engine is running and your handbrake is unlocked, you’re using your phone while managing a car and this is against the law.


“The penalty for breaking this law is £200 and six points on your license.”

3. Entering the Houses of Parliament Wearing Armour

Yeah, if you were planning on doing this by any chance, don’t.

It’s illegal.

According to the 1313 Statute – which refers to forbidding bearing of armour – does in fact forbid Members of Parliament from entering the House of Commons while wearing a full suit of armour at any point.

This particular statute was put into place after a period of political turmoil.

Using your phone to pay at a drive-thru is illegal / Credit: Pinterest

4. Misplacing a Postage Stamp is Treason

This is one many of us can admit to over our lifetimes and as harsh as it sounds, it’s true.

Placing a postage stamp which bears the monarch’s head upside down on an envelope is considered as act of treason.

Also, just to add to that, the defacing or destroying of anything that bears a likeness of the monarch is also illegal, so this means that burning paper money, bending coins or tearing a postage stamp could actually land you in big trouble if caught.

Now, we hope none of you have, or would have a reason to do this, but just in case you were wondering, it is actually legal to shoot a Scotsman under some circumstances.

Only in York though.


According to The Fact Site, the law states that it is legal to shoot a Scotsman with a crossbow upon seeing one, except for on Sundays, however, any Scotsman caught drunk or with a weapon can still be shot on a Sunday, except with a bow and arrow.

Similarly, in Chester – a little bit closer to home – it is also legal to shoot a Welsh person with a crossbow, as long as it is within the city walls and is done after midnight.

6. You Can’t Shake Carpets in London

Another good reason not to live in London, right?

Not like us Mancunians are particularly well known for wanting to shake carpets, but if you ever find yourself needing to do so in the capital, you’ll have to find another way to dust it off, because it’s simply a criminal act.

Under the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839, it’s illegal to beat or shake a mat, carpet, or a rug in the streets of London.


The only time you may beat them is before 8am.

King Henry VIII imposed a beard tax that every man must pay to wear facial hair / Credit: FreeImages

7. Handling Salmon in Suspicious Circumstances

This really is an odd one.

To make matters even crazier too, it’s actually a fairly recent law, but under the Salmon Act of 1986 – yes, we’re really not making this up – it is an offence to receive or dispose of salmon under “suspicious circumstances”.

Now, what circumstances are considered suspicious, we couldn’t tell you.

But believe it or not, police officers in England actually have a right to investigate you if they have reason to believe that the salmon has been illegally fished.


8. Beard Tax

Not good news for the hipsters among us.

King Henry VIII imposed a beard tax that every man must pay to wear facial hair.

He introduced a beard tax that lined his pockets and filled his dinner table, what’s more is that the higher your social standing, the more you had to cough up.

What if you cannot pay? Shave it away.

This simply meant that beards became a symbol of status and money under his reign.

Featured Image – pxhere