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The Ludicrous Laws of Old London

Nigel Cawthorne

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London, Greater London, Prose: non-fiction, British & Irish history, Social & cultural history, Law, Humour

An amusing look at all manner of ludicrous laws that used to govern London and in a surprising number of cases, still do

London abounds with all manner of ludicrous laws, and not all of these curious statutes have been relegated to the past. Despite the efforts of the Law Commission there are medieval laws that are still in force, and the City of London and its livery companies have their own legal oddities. Laws are made in the capital because parliament is here; so are the Old Bailey, the Law Courts, the House of Lords and, now, the Supreme Court. The privy council, which sometimes has to decide cases, also sits in London, and there were other courts that used to sit in London, from prize courts concerning war booty to ecclesiastical courts.

Having maintained its 'ancient rights and freedoms' under Magna Carta, the City felt free to enact its own laws, many of which seem to have had to do with what people could wear. Until quite recently, for example, a man could be arrested for walking down the street wearing a wig, a robe and silk stockings - unless he was a judge.


And all human folly has been paraded through the law courts of London, to the extent that it is difficult to know where the serious business of administering justice ends and where farce begins. As law is made in the courtroom as well as in parliament and elsewhere, judges like to keep a firm hand, but sometimes so-called jibbing juries will simply not do what they are told.

All sorts of oddities

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Nigel Cawthorne

Nigel Cawthorne has been a writer for nearly 30 years, writing a number of successful popular history books; Nigel Cawthorne lives in London.

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