The ‘Welshman in Chester’ folklore
Dating right the way back to the rebellion of Owen Glendower in Wales in 1403, it was the Earl of Chester – the future Henry V – who ordered all Welsh people and Welsh sympathizers be expelled from the city.
The city’s ordinance states “No Welshman may enter the city before sunrise or stay after sunset on pain of decapitation”.
But in fact, the people of Chester were pretty easygoing on the Welshmen as there is no record of anyone ever enforcing the law and issuing the maximum penalty. That said, the perceived threat of the Welshman apparently didn’t wane as the law has never been repealed, so don’t be a Welsh person in Chester after dark!
And it wasn’t just the Celtic Welsh who were disliked by the people of Chester, as under “a law of the interregnum” (which denotes a time during which a state has no normal ruler) passed on 1 October 1646, any Irishman who had been granted the freedom of the City were to be disenfranchised.
The Scotsman best watch out too!
There is a similar folklore in Hereford where it is said you can legally shoot a Welsh person at any time of the day on a Sunday but only if you shoot them using a longbow within the Cathedral Close.
York too has similar provision but against a Scotsman, where a person is perfectly entitled to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow, as long as it is not on a Sunday.
So a Sunday is a crucial day for both Hereford and York and its best not to confuse the two!!!!
Whereas Congleton had trouble with indecent bathers, loiterers and soot!
In Congleton there are still local bye-laws in force today preventing ‘indecent bathing, loitering at church doors and carrying soot’!
“No person shall within two hundred yards of any street or public place, unless effectually screened from view, bathe from the bank or strand of any water, or from any boat thereon, without wearing a dress covering sufficient to prevent indecent exposure of the person. No person shall willfully and persistently loiter at or near the entrance to any church, chapel or other place of public worship. No person shall in any street or public place, to the inconvenience or danger of passengers, carry or convey along any footpath any bag of soot, lime or other offensive substance…”.
And Cambridge disliked people walking its streets!
On 26th April 1561, Elizabeth I issued a Charter giving the University of Cambridge jurisdiction over the town. later confirmed in statute 30 years later, Oxford University was granted similar jurisdiction over Oxford for ‘suppressing of vice’. The Act in still in force today despite a legal challenge in the 1890s, when a young lady, Daisy Hopkins, was arrested one night by university constables and charged with ‘walking with a member of the university in a public street of the town of Cambridge and within the precincts of the university’.
So what was the crime? Walking the streets? No, the university was in fact trying to prevent its members from ‘consorting’ with ladies of the night but found it too rude to say!
Daisy challenged her conviction of 14 days in ‘the spinning house or house of correction’ by successfully applying for a writ of habeas corpus and the court agreed a conviction of ‘walking with a member of the university’ could not be upheld as it was based on a false offense, even though all parties knew what the offence really was.
So at least the people of Cambridge and Oxford need only concern themselves with the offence of ‘walking the streets’ if they also intend to consort with ladies of the night!