Historic Camden park by-laws forbid cattle grazing and beating druggets but visitors can skateboard freely

08:00 25 July 2014

Simon Briscoe made a Freedom of Information request to uncover the bylaws covering Camden Council park. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Simon Briscoe made a Freedom of Information request to uncover the bylaws covering Camden Council park. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

Visitors to Camden’s parks are free to skateboard as much they like under historic council by-laws – but anyone who bleaches linen or herds cattle in one of the borough’s open spaces could be caught with a fine.

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These park by-laws have barely changed since they were first brought in more than 100 years ago, and they still forbid anyone to clean a carpet, beat a drugget or bring a farmyard animal into an open space.

The rules cover many of Camden’s 69 parks, gardens and open spaces, including Waterlow Park, Highgate, and were unveiled in a Freedom of Information request carried out by Highgate resident Simon Briscoe.

Those who are in breach of one of the 26 Camden Council by-laws could be given a fine of up to £50.

Mr Briscoe, of Highgate Hill, now proposes a review to bring them up to date.

“It’s a little piece of social history,” the business and economics researcher said. “You realise that you are not allowed to beat a drugget but it is acceptable to skateboard. You never see people beat a drugget but there are issues with skateboards.

“The request was to see whether they are really appropriate for the 21st century and they are clearly not. I think it would be sensible for the council to update them.”

The by-laws, which first came into force in 1903 to govern six open spaces, were reviewed only once – in 1978. Among the more unusual prohibitions are rules that exclude men from areas “for the use of female persons”, and bringing “cattle, sheep, goats or pigs, or any beast of draught or burden” into one of the open spaces.

Feeding the ducks is also banned in 10 of Camden’s gardens, as 
by-law 14 reads: “Do not feed any animal or bird other than an animal belonging to that person”.

While skateboards are allowed, roller skates are banned under bylaw nine if you are older than 14.

It is thought laws forbidding beating carpets, shaking druggets, cleaning rugs and bleaching and drying linen hark back to a time when washerwomen used the open spaces to carry out their duties.

Ceridwen Roberts, co-chairman of Friends of Waterlow Park, said: “I think they are a reflection of their time, and the vast majority of them still apply. Some might no longer be fit for purpose but someone could still need to tether a goat in one of the bigger parks.

“I think it’s sensible to talk about whether people have been given the key points of the by-laws.”

Cllr Sally Gimson, cabinet member for sustainability and environment, said: “Many of these by-laws date back to the 1900s and have remained in place simply because of the complexity of the processes involved with changing them.

“To review and change them would be a time intensive piece of work to undertake. We therefore take a sensible approach and only look to enforce certain actions such as anti-social behaviour or littering under powers.”


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