Friday 3 September 2010


Here's what the Victorians found legally objectionable in their neighbours, giving you some idea of what 'zero tolerance' meant in 1879. Quite a nice insight into Victorian urban living, if you read it through. No mat-shaking after 8 a.m., for a start.

Nuisances. — A few of the desagremens to which metropolitan flesh is heir have been legally settled to be “nuisances”.

(a) THE FOLLOWING WILL be summarily suppressed on appeal to the nearest police-constable:
  • Abusive language; Advertisements, carriage of (except in form approved); Areas left open without sufficient fence.
  • Baiting animals; Betting in streets; Bonfires in Streets; Books, obscene, selling in streets.
  • Carpet-beating; Carriage, obstruction by; Cattle, careless driving of; Coals, unloading, between prohibited hours; Cock-fighting; Crossings in streets, obstructing.
  • Defacing buildings; Deposit of goods in streets ; Dogs loose or mad; Doors, knocking at; Drunk and disorderly persons; Dust, removal of, between 10 am, and 7 p.m.
  • Exercising horses to annoyance of persons; Exposing goods for sale in parks.
  • Firearms, discharging; Fireworks, throwing in streets; Footways, obstructions on; Footways unswept; Furious driving; Furniture, fraudulent removal of between 8p.m. and 6 am,
  • Games, playing in streets.
  • Indecent exposure.
  • Lamps, extinguishing.
  • Mat-shaking after 8 a.m; Musicians in streets.
  • Obscene singing; Offensive matters, removal of, between 6 am. and 12 midnight.
  • Posting bills without consent;  projections from houses to cause annoyance.
  • Reins, persons driving without; Ringing door bells without excuse; Rubbish lying in thoroughfare.
  • Slides, making in streets; Stone-throwing.
  • Unlicensed public carriage.
(b) THE FOLLOWING WILL require an application to the police-courts:

  • Cesspools, foul.
  • Dead body, infectious, retained in room where persons live; Disease, person suffering from infectious, riding in public carriage, or exposing himself, or being without proper accommodation; Disorderly houses; Drains, foul.
  • Factory, unclean or overcrowded. Furnace in manufactory not consuming its own smoke; Food unfit for consumption, exposing.
  • Gaming houses.
  • House filthy or injurious to health.
  • Infected bedding or clothes, sale of.
  • Letting infected house or room; Lotteries.
  • Manufactures (making sulphuric acid, steeping skins, &c.); Manure, non-removal of; Milk, exposing, unfit for consumption.
  • Obstructions in highways, bridges, or rivers; Overcrowding of house.
  • Powder magazine, or keeping too large a quantity.
  • Theatres, unlicensed; Trades, offensive (keeping pigs, soap-house, slaughter-house, or manufactures in trade causing effluvia, &c.).
  • Want of reparation of highway; Warehousing inflammable materials; Water-fouling or polluting.
(c) THE FOLLOWING WILL require a summons in the County Court:

  • Any of those nuisances next-mentioned where the value or the rent of the premises in dispute, or in respect of which and over which the easement is claimed, shall not exceed £20 per annum; or where damages in a personal action not exceeding £50 are sought to be recovered, unless by consent of both parties.
(d) THE FOLLOWING WILL require a regular action at law:

  • Buildings from which water falls on to another house.
  • Commons, injury to soil, digging turf, injuring pasture.
  • Drainage, interruption of.
  • Encroachments on highways, rivers, streets, or squares.
  • Gas company fouling any stream.
  • Lights, obstruction of.
  • Party wall, paring off part of; Publication of injurious advertisements.
  • Rivers, pulling down banks of; Right of way, interruption of.
  • Sewage, conducting, into river; Stream, pollution or diversion of.
(e) THE FOLLOWING HAVE NOT been definitely settled either way, but may, under certain circumstances, be worth the cost and trouble of a trial:

  • Church bell-ringing
  • Hospital, infectious.
  • Manufactory, near house, introducing more noisy machinery, or new way of working it; Music,  powerful band near house.
  • Rifle practice; Rockets or fireworks, letting off, frequently.
  • Sewage contributed by several persons, amount contributed by each not being sufficient to cause a nuisance.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

1 comment:

  1. There are quite a few that are as objectionable to us today as they were to our Victorian forebears.

    Some have been rendered obsolete by changing social and economic circumstances: for example, horses and cattle do not usually cause much of a nuisance in modern London.