to the Bible, breaking the Sabbath or not observing the day of the
Lord was an offence punishable by death (Exodus Ch.31 v15).
Christians, observing the Sabbath has a two-fold meaning, comprising
not working on a Sunday and attending Church.
attending Church on a Sunday was made compulsory in Tudor Times. The
Act of Uniformity passed by Edward VI in 1551 made it an offence not
to attend Church on a Sunday. A further Act of Uniformity passed in
1559, soon after Elizabeth I ascended the Crown, also made it a crime
not to attend but added that transgressors could be fined 12d for non-attendance.
restrictions on what people could do on a Sunday were passed in the
17th century. In 1618 it was decreed that you could participate in dancing,
archery, leaping, vaulting, May games etc (although only after evening
service) but bear and bull-baiting and other sports were forbidden.
The Commonwealth era (1649-1660) was less permissive. Ordinances passed
in 1650 and 1656 banned travelling and 'vainly and profanely walking'
on a Sunday.
this the end of legislation. In 1780 the Sunday Observance Act was passed.
This was an act "for preventing certain abuses and profanations
of the Lord's Day, called Sunday." Amongst its measures were restrictions
on who could work and at what trade, and rules governing places of entertainment.
Some of these clauses are still in force today which is why pubs and
clubs have to have a special licence for opening at certain times on
mid-19th century non attendance at Church was no longer an offence.
Protestant Dissenters, Jews and Roman Catholics received a specific
exemption in 1846 but the Act of Uniformity was still meant to be binding
on Anglicans (those attending the Church of England). However, the punishment
was now 'ecclesiastical censure'.
of stocks and the pillory was traditionally reserved for transgressors
of what were deemed more minor offences and were most commonly used
to punish vagrants. Their use was outlawed in 1837.