HISTORIES AND MYSTERIES – Devon’s strangest byelaws

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

Using a pavement, rather than your local news website, to get your story out there

Defacing a pavement is a serious offence. Byelaw 19 in the series of Good Rule and Government Byelaws in Exeter states that no person shall for the purpose of advertising or of disseminating news, propaganda or the likes, deface the footway or roadway of any street by writing or other marks.

Dartmoor has a treasure trove full of weird and wonderful byelaws.

You cannot wash your car on the Moor

Quite why you would want to stop off in the middle of Dartmoor, park your car in the shadow of a Tor, and get out a scrubbing bucket to wash your car, no-one knows, but even if you wanted to, it is not allowed (unless your car has broken down).

Dartmoor National Park Authority has a byelaw that means no person shall clean, paint or carry out repairs on any vehicle parked on the access land, except in the event of an accident, breakdown or other emergency.

Getting out your driver and whacking a golf ball

Clearly, it makes a lot of sense for laws to be in place to stop you using firearms or projectiles on Dartmoor, and there is a byelaw banning the discharge, without lawful authority, of any firearm, air weapon or crossbow.

But the same byelaw also bans anyone from driving, chipping or pitching a hard golf ball on any area of the access land, down to and including Plasterdown, or on any other area of access land so as to give reasonable grounds for annoyance.

It mentions nothing about putting a golf ball though…

Flying a kite may get you in trouble

Let’s go fly a kite, Dick Van Dyke sung in Mary Poppins, but not on Dartmoor. No person shall fly a kite, or indeed a model glider, from the access land in such a manner as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to any other person or in such a manner as is likely to startle or disturb stock on the land.

Blasting out loud music from your cassette player

In perhaps a nod to when the Dartmoor Commons Act was written (1985 in case you were wondering), listening to a cassette player is not allowed.

The byelaw states that no person shall play or operate or knowingly cause or permit to be played or operated, any musical instrument, radio, television set, record or cassette player, amplifier or similar appliance in such a manner as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to another person on the access land.

Rollerskating or skateboarding in Newton Abbot

You might think that rollerskating or skateboarding is a good way to get around the town. But in Newton Abbot, it could land you with a £500 fine.

Teignbridge District Council byelaws from 1996 state that no person shall skate on rollers, skateboards, wheels or other mechanical contrivances in the multi-storey car park in Sherbourne Road, Newton Abbot.

And that no person shall skate on rollers, skateboards, wheels or other mechanical contrivances in Courtenay Street, Market Square or Market Walk in Newton Abbot, or use rollers, skateboards, wheels or other mechanical contrivances in such a manner to cause danger, nuisance, or give reasonable grounds for annoyance to persons lawfully using the footway.

Having possession of a Salmon

Taw and Torridge is a veritable goldmine of byelaws, mainly relating to salmon and migratory trout.

For example, no person shall sell, offer or expose for sale or have in possession for sale any salmon or migratory trout which has been taken by rod and line, while there is a byelaw on the Taw and Torridge rivers providing mandatory release unharmed of all salmon over 70 cm between August 1st and September 30th.

On the River Avon (Devon), Axe (Devon), Dart, Exe, Taw, Torridge & Teign, all migratory trout below 25cm and non-migratory trout below 20cm must be returned, while no shrimp, prawn, worm or maggot can be used as bait and no spinning after March 31st is allowed.

You can’t shout ‘Any Old Iron’ in any Exeter street – and Ice Cream vans are in trouble, too

Byelaw 6 in the series of Good Rule and Government Byelaws states ‘no person shall, for the purpose of hawking, selling, distributing or advertising any article, or for the purpose of collecting rags and bones, old clothes, bottles and similar articles, shout or use any bell, gong, or other noisy instrument in any street or public place so as to cause annoyance to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.’

Jumping from embankments or bridges into the River Exe

This is a dangerous thing to do anyway, as warned about here. But it’s also breaking a local byelaw.

‘No person shall without reasonable excuse climb upon or hang from any bridge to which these byelaws apply or aid, abet, counsel or procure such an act by another.

Bridge includes any abutment, embankment, retaining wall or other work supporting or protecting the bridge.’

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