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The legal system in Britain is the product of centuries of evolution, with the earliest laws that have not been repealed dating back to the 13th Century. Many laws, although outdated and strange, can be very interesting and entertaining.

We thought we would share some of our favourites with you. Some of the laws below have no basis to the law as it currently stands, but they do offer an insight into the way we used to live – and in some cases, show how far we’ve come!

Is it illegal to place a stamp of the Queen upside down on a letter?

This law has been repealed but the Treason Felony Act 1848 clearly states that any act with the intention of deposing the monarch is an offence.  The Act does not refer to stamps and it does not seem likely that placing a stamp upside down would have been an offence.

Is it illegal to be drunk on licensed premises?

As bizarre as this law might seem, it’s not only in force but under the Licensing Act 1872 “every person found drunk on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”.

It is also an offence under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 for the “keeper of a public house to permit drunkenness or disorderly conduct on the premises.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, selling alcohol to a drunk person, or to obtain alcohol for consumption by a person who is drunk is an offence.

Is it illegal to beat or shake any carpet or rug in the street?

Under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 “ every person who in any thoroughfare shall beat or shake any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats before the hour of eight in the morning), or throw or lay any dirt, shall be guilty”.

Other offences covered are the offence of “Every person who, to the danger of passengers in any thoroughfare, shall leave open any vault or cellar, or the entrance from any thoroughfare to any cellar or room underground, without a sufficient fence or handrail.” and the offence of throwing coal, stones bricks or other materials.

Is it illegal to drive cows down the roadway without the permission of the commissioner police?

Under the Metropolitan Streets Act 1867 no person should drive cattle through the streets between ten in the morning and seven in the evening, except with the permission of the commissioner of the police.

In more detail the act states that if any person is found guilty shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ten shillings for each head of cattle.

Is it illegal to stand within 100 yards of the reigning monarch if you are wearing double ruffs?

The 1562 Articles for the Execution of the Statutes of Apparel prohibited anyone from appearing at the royal court wearing shirts with “outrageous double ruffs”, or hose of “monstrous and outrageous greatness”. However, these laws have been repealed.