What links tattoos, hackney carriages and water …

By | 1 May 2013

Byelaws that’s what!

by Hannah Chandler



A lengthy search for byelaws recently prompted us to delve further and do a bit of research….

Byelaws are effectively local laws to deal with local issues. They are made by a body, such as a local authority, using powers granted by an Act of Parliamentm and so are a  form of delegated legislation. Some byelaws are made by private companies or charities that exercise public or semi-public functions, such as airport operators, water companies or, for example, the National Trust.

Byelaws generally require something to be done – or not done – in a particular location. As the non-observance of a byelaw result in a criminal offence tried in a Magistrates’ Court, they must be approved by central government before they can come into force.

They are usually restricted to a physical location such as a park (no cycling or skateboards for example) or a particular activity such as  tattooing or hair dressing. See http://www.oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decCD/Byelaws.htm for examples from the Oxford City Council.

How are they made?

Once the byelaw has been made under the common seal of the authority the byelaw has to be published in a relevant local newspaper as notice of the Council’s intention and the byelaw must then be kept in on deposit at the offices of the Council for at least one month before it can be put before the Secretary of State for approval and date of enforcement.

A slippery customer?

Byelaws can be quite hard to track down as they are not formally deposited in any one place.  Here are some useful information sources in order of relevance.

  • Local council, authority or private company relevant for creating the byelaw
  • Local library or record office
  • Newspaper archives
  • London Gazette
  • The government department responsible for approving the byelaw

A useful archive collection is held at the National Archives who has a set of printed copies of local authority byelaws dating from 1872 to 1977.

For more information the Bodleian libguide ‘United Kingdom Law’ guide has a page dedicated to byelaws.

One thought on “What links tattoos, hackney carriages and water …

  1. geh

    Another connection Sherlock Holmes. The actress from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the Sherlock Holmes movie. Hackney carriages used in the novels (horse drawn of course Hackney was famous for good horses). Water, the waterfall from the ‘death scene’ of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty.

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