Law & taxation

1858 Bradford sweets poisoning

The 1858 Bradford sweets poisoning was the arsenic poisoning of more than 200 people in Bradford, England, when sweets accidentally made with arsenic were sold from a market stall in the town.

Act of Uniformity 1558

The Act of Uniformity 1558 was one of the Acts of Parliament collectively known as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. It introduced a Common Book of Prayer, and obliged everyone to attend their parish church every Sunday and on holy days.

Arsenic Act 1851

The Arsenic Act 1851 (14 & 15 Vict c. 13) was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1851, during the reign of Queen Victoria in response increasing public concern over accidental and deliberate arsenic poisonings.


A beerhouse was a type of public house created in the United Kingdom by the 1830 Beerhouse Act, legally defined as a place “where beer is sold to be consumed on the premises”.

Benefit of clergy

Benefit of clergy was the legally enshrined right of any clergyman facing prosecution for a felony in a royal court to have the case heard instead in an ecclesiastical court.

Benefit of Clergy Act 1575

The Benefit of Clergy Act, 1575 removed the right of those charged with rape or burglary to claim benefit of clergy, and so to be tried in an ecclesiastical court.

Brick tax

A tax on bricks was introduced in Great Britain in 1784 during the reign of King George III, to help pay for the American War of Independence. I was abolished in 1850.

Bubble Act 1720

An Act of the Parliament of Great Britain to prohibit the formation of new joint-stock companies unless approved by royal charter.

Burning of women in England

Burning was a legal punishment imposed on women found guilty of high treason, petty treason or heresy. Over a period of several centuries, female convicts were publicly burnt at the stake, sometimes alive, for a range of activities including coining and mariticide.

Burying in Woollens Acts

There were three Burying in Woollens Acts passed during the 17th century, to support the domestic woollen trade in the face of increasing competition from foreign imports

Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868

The Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c.24) received Royal Assent on 29 May 1868, putting an end to public executions for murder in the United Kingdom.

Cat and Mouse Act 1913

Formally known as The Prisoners Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act, the Cat and Mouse Act of 1913 was intended to deal with the public outcry resulting from the treatment of suffragettes who went on hunger strike while in prison.

Combination Acts

The Combination Acts were passed by the Tory government of William Pitt the Younger in response to its fear of unrest or revolution among the working classes. They banned workers from combining to form trade unions and prevented them from striking, calling for shorter hours or increased pay.

Commonwealth (Adultery) Act 1650

An Act passed by the Rump Parliament in 1650, making fornication, adultery and incest secular offences.

De heretico comburendo

De heretico comburendo (2 Hen. IV c. 15), was a law passed in 1401 during the reign of King Henry IV, allowing heretics to be burned alive.

Diseases Prevention (Metropolis) Act 1883

The Diseases Prevention (Metropolis) Act (46 & 47 Vict c 35) was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in 1883, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Glass tax

Two taxes on glass were introduced in England during the 1690s, the first on glass itself and the second on windows.

Hogarth’s Act 1735

An Act of the Parliament of Great Britain to give copyright protections to the producers of engravings.

Inland Revenue Act 1880

The Inland Revenue Act 1880 (43 & 44 Vict. c. 20), also known as the Free Mash-Tun Act, full title An Act to repeal the duties on Malt, to grant and alter certain duties of Inland Revenue, and to amend the Laws in relation to certain other duties, was a United Kingdom Act of Parliament passed in 1880 during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Insolvent Debtors (England) Act 1813

The Insolvent Debtors (England) Act (53 Geo. 3 c 102) was an Act of Parliament passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1813, during the reign of King George III. It was enacted in response to the demands on the prison system imposed by the numbers of those being incarcerated for debt, and some concern for their plight.

Keeping of dogs to hunt, etc. 1390

A statute passed during the reign of King Richard II to restrict the hunting of game to the wealthier members of society by forbidding the ownership of hunting dogs, ferrets etc. to anyone earning less than forty shillings a year.

Liber Poenitentialis

The Lieber potentialis is a set of 7th-century ecclesiastical laws applied to women – and only women – perfoming acts such as divination, raising storms, or murder by the use of magic.

Locomotive Acts

The Locomotive Acts of 1861, 1865 and 1878 set the United Kingdom’s first speed limits for road-going vehicles; powered passenger vehicles were at the time known as light locomotives, as they were invariably powered by steam.

Making of Bread, etc. Act 1800

The Making of Bread, etc. Act 1800 (41 Geo. III c. 16), also known as the Brown Bread Act or the Poison Act, was a British Act of Parliament that prohibited millers from producing any flour other than wholemeal flour.

Manorial court

The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geography.

Metropolitan Houseless Poor Act 1864

The Metropolitan Houseless Poor Act 1864 (27 & 28 Vict c. 116) was a short-term piece of legislation that imposed a legal obligation on Poor Law unions in London to provide temporary accommodation for “destitute wayfarers, wanderers, and foundlings”

Mines and Collieries Act 1842

The Mines and Collieries Act 1842 (5 & 6 Vict. c. 99), usually known as the Mines Act 1842 is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that prohibited all females and boys under ten years of age from working underground in coal mines.

Murder Act 1752

An Act of parliament of England and Wales to increase the horror of being executed for murder by expediting the process and denying the right to a decent burial.

Punishment of Incest Act 1908

The Punishment of Incest Act 1908 (8 Edw. 7 c. 45) made it illegal for the first time in England and Wales for a man to engage in sexual intercourse with any female he knew to be his grand-daughter, daughter, sister, half-sister, or mother.


A form of tenure under English feudal property law.

Sponging house

A sponging house was a place of temporary confinement for those arrested for non-payment of a debt.

Statute of Silence 1581

The Act against Seditious Words and Rumours (23 Eliz. Cap. II), also known as the Statute of Silence, was passed by the parliament of Queen Elizabeth I in January 1581, introducing a series of increasingly gruesome punishments for speaking or publishing anything that the Queen did not wish to hear.

Witchcraft Act 1735

The Witchcraft Act 1735 (9 Geo. II c. 5), sometimes referred to as the Witchcraft Act 1736 owing to dating complexities, repealed the earlier statutes concerning witchcraft throughout Great Britain, including Scotland, which had its own legal system.

Witchcraft Acts

A series of Acts passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland making witchcraft a secular offence punishable by death.