The Countryman's Weekly

Sporting Law

Sporting Law
December 13
08:04 2017

WEB4-13-12-17Legal facts, fables and the future

By Stuart Farr.

THE evolution of our laws in England and Wales has seen many changes over the years and, indeed, centuries. So much so, in fact, some of the more curious aspects of our historic legal developments have morphed into urban legend and fable.

You might be sitting at the Christmas table this year, for example, and someone might utter the suggestion that eating a mince pie on Christmas Day is still illegal in England. Maybe that explains why mince pies go on sale in September? Who knows?

The bare truth, however, is it was only illegal for one year, in 1644. December 25 in that year fell on a legally mandated day of fasting. All celebrations for Christmas were banned by virtue of an Ordinance for Abolishing Festivals in 1647 but mince pies themselves were never actually banned, although they were strongly disapproved of as a symbol of immoral excesses of the festival season. Bear that in mind when you ask for a second helping smothered with brandy butter.

Similarly, it has been spoken that it is a legal requirement for every Englishman to undertake longbow practise on Christmas Day. Again, untrue I am afraid. The Unlawful Games Act 1541 did require every Englishman between the ages of 17 and 60 to keep a longbow and regularly practise archery. The act was (perhaps sadly) repealed only as recently as 1960 by the Betting and Gaming Act of that year.

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