Town Police Clauses Act 1847

The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (10 & 11 Vict c. 89). The statute remains in force in both the United Kingdom (except Scotland) and the Republic of Ireland, and is frequently used by local councils to close roads to allow public events such as processions or street parties to take place. The Act is also used to regulate the local hackney carriage, taxi and private-hire trade in many areas. It deals with a range of street obstructions and nuisances, for example, it makes it illegal to perform certain actions in a public street or other thoroughfare, such as hanging washing, beating carpets, and flying kites.[1] Historically, it was highly significant legislating against indecent exposure, indecent acts, obscene publications, and prostitution.

Town Police Clauses Act 1847
Long titleAn Act for consolidating in one Act certain provisions usually contained in Acts for regulating the police of towns
Territorial extentEngland and Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland
Royal assent22 July 1847
Status: Partially repealed
Text of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from


In 1847, the House of Commons Select Committee on Private Bills presented a report. In 1842 to 1843, the average number of private bills passed was 161, rising to an average of 347 from 1845 to 1846. By 21 July 1847, the House of Commons, 490 petitions for private bills were received that year. Already in place, resulting from early reports by the select committee, new mechanisms were in place to deal more efficiently with private bills.[2][clarification needed]

Noting was that much of the business the House of Commons was dealing with were numerous private bills, which due to the clauses they contained, were essentially public bills. Drawing up private bills to deal with public functions had consequences.[2] The select committee wrote:

... some varying or interfering with the general statute or common law of the country; some, though ordinary in their nature, yet of a perplexing and needless diversity in form; and, finally, some so contradictory and mutually discordant as to render their enforcement impossible, and to make the law doubtful and embarrassing even to those who are professionally versed in it[3]

To provide uniformity in legislation in different geographical areas, to reduce the number of private bills about public functions, and to reduce expense, the select committee proposed eight public acts, each dealing with a different topic:

The police legislation was enacted as the Town Police Clauses Act 1847.

Original purposes of the actEdit

The original Act covered six areas,

  • Police regulations and administration
  • Obstructions and nuisances, including several significant offences about indecent exposure, indecent acts, and obscene publications
  • Fires and administration of fire fighting
  • Regulating places of public resort, for example, coffee shops and refreshment house used as meeting places for thieves and prostitutes, places for bear baiting and cock fighting
  • Public bathing
  • Hackney carriages[4]

Provisions still in forceEdit

Many clauses of the act are still in force; these are provisions dealing with

  • Preventing obstructions during street processions
  • Prohibiting stage carriages from diverting from a prescribed route
  • Powers enabling the building of pounds for stray animals
  • Impounding stray cattle, selling them, and unlawfully releasing them from a pound
  • A significant number of nuisances and obstructions to the highway
  • Violent and indecent behaviour in a police station
  • Accidentally allowing chimney fires
  • Keeping places for animal fighting, baiting, or worrying them, for example bear baiting and cock fighting
  • Hackney carriages[4][5]

The act is still relevant to policing the highway. Many offences in the act relating to nuisance and obstruction in the street, and the act is also a means of regulating road closures for special events.[6]

The law controls the use of fireworks,[7][8] and the wanton discharge of firearms in the street.[8] A significant role is the licensing of hackney carriages.[9] It also prohibits the wanton furious driving of a horse and carriage in the street.[8] A role of the Act is to regulate peoples' behaviour. It remains an offence to be disorderly or insulting in a police station.

Until 2003, the Act was one piece of legislation against prostitution in a range of premises, including hotels.[10] Although superseded by other laws a conviction for indecency, deriving from the Act, is on a list of offences which can be used to identify those who present a risk, or potential risk, to children.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ever been drunk driving a steam engine?". BBC News. 17 January 2006.
  2. ^ a b c House of Commons (1847). Third Report from the Select Committee on Private Bills together with Minutes of Evidence, Appendix, and Index. House of Commons.
  3. ^ Third Report from the Select Committee on Private Bills together with Minutes of Evidence, Appendix, and Index. House of Commons. 1847. p. 8.
  4. ^ a b "Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (as enacted)" (PDF). legislation.Gov.UK. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (as amended)". Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  6. ^ South Somerset District Council (2018). "Road Closure for Special Events Under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 - Application Form" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-20.
  7. ^ "Fire Safety Public Advice Fireworks and Firework Displays" (PDF). Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service. 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Richard, Card (2017-01-19). Police law. English, J. (Jack) (15th ed.). Oxford. ISBN 9780198786801. OCLC 973732993.
  9. ^ "Taxi Licencing". Newcastle City Council. 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  10. ^ Adkins, Helen (2002). "The Problem of Prostitution". The Caterer. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  11. ^ "5.1 People Posing a Risk to Children - Guidance and Procedure". Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board. Retrieved 18 May 2018.

External linksEdit