10 Weird London Laws And Rules

By Victoria Thomas Last edited 89 months ago
10 Weird London Laws And Rules
Pelican touching: just one of the weird things forbidden in London. Image: Darrel Godliman

Looking into the age-old legislation of London, we've uncovered many strange acts and clauses, some which still stand now and some, which sadly, are just rumours.

Some of these rules and laws are so bizarre, you've probably been breaking them without even knowing it (especially if you like touching pelicans).

Anyway, apparently it's a big no-no to:

1. Wear a suit of armour in Parliament

It's been illegal for MPs to enter Parliament in a suit of armour since the 1313 statute Forbidding Bearing of Armour. This has never been repealed.

2. Beat a rug

You can't beat a carpet, rug or mat in the Metropolitan Police District, says Section 60 of the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839. Though it's OK to shake a doormat, as long as you get in there before 8am.

Don't go wearing this stuff in Parliament, yeah. Photo by Michael in the Londonist Flickr pool

3. Take a cab if you've got the plague

Don't even think about flagging down a London cab if you've got the plague. We've got sections 33 and 34 of Public Health (Control Of Disease) Act 1984, Chapter 22 to thank for this one. The rule also applies to passengers with leprosy, rabies, food poisoning, even whooping cough — in fact, "any notifiable diseases" — which are those you have to report to Public Health England so they can prevent a possible epidemic.

Although it's actually alright as long as the cab driver agrees and disinfects the cab immediately afterwards.

4. Jump a queue in a tube station

Here's the most British one. We've all seen a bit of this going on, but it's actually prohibited according to TfL byelaws — as long as there's a sign or member of staff telling you not to (in this day and age no wonder so many people get away with it).

5. Slide on ice

You're not allowed to slide on ice or snow. Well, not "in any street or other thoroughfare, to the common danger of the passengers" anyway. As far as we know, this only applies to London — so go wild in the rest of the UK. The law was passed as part of Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act Of 1839, which seems to have been a prime year for fun-sucking as they also outlawed carrying a plank (or any building materials) along a pavement.

TfL staff can forbid you to queue jump. Shame there are hardly any around. Photo by Edward Scoble in the Londonist Flickr pool

6. Touch a pelican

Pelican-touching is "expressly forbidden" should you happen to find one in a London park, according to the Royal Parks And Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 . You can pet one if "prior permission is obtained". Presumably from the park, not the pelican.

7. Dress as a Chelsea Pensioner

The myth goes that you can't don the distinctive red coat and black cap of the retired soldiers/national treasures since 1692. It's not actually illegal though; we called them and checked — they said you could probably do it with their permission if you really wanted. We presume impersonating any other pensioner is absolutely fine.

8. Mate with the Queen's corgis

Apparently you're forbidden to allow your pet to mate with one of the Queen's corgis (though we can't find any official details of it being passed). Presumably, this is to avoid any unwanted mongrel offspring.

Careful you don't annoy someone with your kite or it might cost you £200. Photo by Andrew Smith in the Londonist Flickr pool

9. Fly a kite

Section 54 of our old friend Metropolitan Police Act Of 1839 states that kite flying in a public place is punishable by a fine of up to £200 if it causes "annoyance to other people". Mr Banks and the kids in Mary Poppins seem to have been completely unaware of this one.

10. Kill a swan

Though the Queen doesn't own all the breeds of swan in England, she does have first say on all mute swans (which she co-owns along with the worshipful companies of Vintners and the Dyers). She's even allowed to eat them, as long as she and her diners are guests of St Johns College, Cambridge. As mute swans are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and killing them is punishable with a £5,000 fine, we're not quite sure how this one works out. But she's obviously got a bit of money if she does need to pay up.

Have you got a favourite weird London law or rule that we've missed out? True or untrue, we'd love to hear them in the comments below.

Last Updated 14 October 2016