We take lots of things for granted nowadays. Not only freedom of speech and the right to vote were once privileged activities. English people have been through some rough patched throughout the years. Check out these 9 activities declared illegal in England. They’ll make you feel more grateful about what you have and what you can do in your country. Some of these banned activities seem downright ludicrous for us today, but they were a big deal back in the day when you couldn’t sign a Facebook petition so they don’t cancel your favorite TV show.
King Edward II couldn’t possibly pull this one off today, but he wasn’t the bit scared to go ahead and prohibit football in the 1300s. What was his reasoning? Apparently football distracted his subjects from practicing what really mattered: archery. With the war with Scotland knocking on his door, King Edward’s concerns seem understandable. You can expect your soldiers to be good at shooting people down with arrows, not have a good aim at kicking a ball around. Anyway, there weren’t any football leagues back then anyway and football was played a little randomly. And by that I mean the two teams could consist of entire towns with thousands of people attempting to get the ball in the church of their adversaries. King Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V also banned football for the same reasons.
#8 Selling Wine in Bottles
Before the coal furnace was invented in the 17th century, wine used to be kept in clay pots. But with thicker glass bottles, wine started being sold in bottles that varied in volumes. Not all glassblowers could make equal sized bottles, so buyers never knew how much wine they would get: 600 ml or 800 ml. As a consequence, several countries declared selling wine in bottles illegal, including England. The ban was later lifted, when wine bottles started following the 750 ml standard we still use today almost all over the world.
#7 Driving Alone
Next time you drive alone with music blasting, remember the people in the 1860s didn’t have it so easy. Not only they had slower, more burdensome vehicles, starting 1861 they were also forbidden to drive alone. So if they wanted to go shopping, they would’ve had to take not one, but two pals with them. According to the Locomotive On Highway Act, any automobile had to have a driver, a stocker to feed coal into the engines and a man with a red flag and a lantern that would go on foot to warn others a car was coming. Aren’t you suddenly more grateful for you mom’s van?
All the kids from 1644 must have hated Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, when he decided Christmas insulted God and it should, therefore, be banned. With thousands of sighing children in the background, Cromwell prohibited the merrymaking, including foods like mince pie and pudding. After 20 years of secretly celebrating Christmas, English people were given back their right to overtly cheer for Santa in 1660, when monarchy returned to power.
#5 Beating Rugs and Mats in the Streets
Back in 1847 if you wanted to have clean carpets or rugs and decided to beat them in the streets, you risked going behind bars for two weeks, on top of getting a £200 fine. The Town Police Clauses Act from 1847 came up with this weird decision and some others that were equally baffling. You could shake your doormat in the streets, but only before 8 am. But you couldn’t fly kites, throw anything on the streets, or have your chimney catch fire, even if it was an accident.
#4 Not Offering The Monarch ‘Royal Fish’
Thanks to a 1342 law passed by King Edward II, nowadays, all whales and sturgeons caught or washed ashore in the British waters are the British Empire’s ruler’s property. To illustrate this, when a handsome sturgeon was caught on a Saturday, the law abiding citizens called up the palace to offer their homage. But when they didn’t get a reply for three days, they put the fish on their menu and got ready to dig in. This is when the phone rang and they were told Queen Elizabeth II would receive the fish.
#3 Obstructing Your Neighbor’s Sunlight
According to the Prescription Act from 1832, if a window has benefited from twenty years of uninterrupted sunlight, the neighbors are prohibited from building anything that would obstruct that light. To settle this, English people used the “45° rule” which implies drawing a line at a 45° angle from the middle of the window towards the building to be constructed. You would risk your building being knocked down if it violated that right, and surprisingly enough, the law remains in effect even today.
Charles II of England wasn’t too happy with his subjects spending all their day idling in coffeehouses, sipping on espressos and gossiping about the latest tulle. So he rendered coffeehouses illegal and banned coffee, chocolate and tea sales. Luckily for all tea and coffee addicts from 1675, the law remained in effect only for a short period of time, a week.
#1 Eating Potatoes In Court
French fries weren’t so popular from the very beginning. Potatoes used to be considered poisonous, strange and evil. French people thought they could lead to syphilis, narcosis and premature death. When an English explorer first gifted the new vegetable to Queen Elizabeth I, a banquet was thrown for nobles and landowners. Skeptical, the cooks threw away the potatoes and cooked instead the stems and leaves, which turned out to be poisonous. With dozens of sick guests turning green and nauseous, the potatoes were banned from court.