The Sunday Observance Act 1780[1]
Long titleAn Act for preventing certain Abuses and Profanations on the Lord's Day called Sunday.
Citation21 Geo 3 c 49
Repealed24 November 2005[2]
Other legislation
Repealed byThe Licensing Act 2003, ss. 198(1) & 199 & Sch.6, para.3 & Sch.7
Status: Repealed

The Sunday Observance Act 1780 (21 Geo 3 c 49) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Originally eight sections long, only sections 1 to 3 were still in force after the 1960s. These sections prohibited the use of any building or room for public entertainment or debate on a Sunday.

In 1931, Millie Orpen, a solicitor's clerk, brought an action as a common informer against a cinema chain for opening on a succession of Sundays, contrary to the Sunday Observance Act 1780, s.1. Orpen claimed £25,000 against the cinema company and individual members of its board of directors. The claim was based on a forfeit of £200 per performance per defendant. The judge, Mr Justice Rowlatt, expressed some distaste for the proceedings. He found against the cinema chain, awarding Orpen £5,000, with costs, but found for the individual directors on the grounds that there was no evidence that they were guilty on any particular Sunday. Costs were awarded to the directors against Orpen. The judge granted a stay pending an appeal by the company.[3] Later in the year, Orpen brought a claim against another chain, but was thwarted[clarification needed] by a change in the law legalising Sunday opening for cinemas before her case could be decided.[4]

Other legislation

This Act was affected by sections 1(1) and (3) of the Common Informers Act 1951.[citation needed] Its provisions were tightened by the

Its provisions were excluded in relation to certain activities by:[citation needed]

Case law

The following cases were decided in relation to the Act:


Sections 1 to 3 were repealed by the Licensing Act 2003 (with effect from 24 November 2005).[6]

Sections 4 and 5 were repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1966.

Section 6 was repealed in part by section 2 of the Limitation of Actions and Costs Act 1842 and entirely by section 2 of the Public Authorities Protection Act 1893.

Section 7 was repealed by section 87 of, and Schedule 5 to, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

Section 8 was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1966.


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by the Short Titles Act 1896. (Some sources may refer to the Act as the Sunday Observance Act 1781, this being the year in which it was passed.)
  2. ^ Licensing Act 2003 (Commencement No. 7 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2005 article 2(2) (see article 1 for the meaning of "second appointed day")
  3. ^ Orpen v. Haymarket Capital Ltd & Others, The Times, July 18, 1931, p.3, col E
  4. ^ Orpen v. New Empire Ltd and Others, The Times, October 20, 1931, p.4, col C
  5. ^ Mill, John Stuart (2015). On Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other Essays. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191649813.
  6. ^ Licensing Act 2003 (Commencement No. 7 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2005