Towns Improvement Clauses Act 1847 (1847 Act)




Numbering: all local authorities in England exercising district council functions (but excluding London Boroughs) and all 22 local authorities in Wales, save where a Local Act is in place.

Naming: all local authorities in England exercising district council functions (but excluding London Boroughs) and all 22 local authorities in Wales, provided that they have elected to use the First Scheme in accordance with the 1972 Act and save where a Local Act is in place.



Section 1: “This Act shall extend only to such towns or districts in England or Ireland as shall be comprised in any Act of Parliament hereafter to be passed which shall declare that this Act shall be incorporated therewith; and all the clauses of this Act, save so far as they shall be expressly varied or excepted by any such Act, shall apply to the town or district which shall be comprised in such Act, and to the commissioners appointed for improving and regulating the same, so far as such clauses shall be applicable thereto respectively, and shall, with the clauses of every other Act which shall be incorporated therewith, from part of such Act, and be construed therewith as forming one Act.” [Emphasis added].

Section 2: ““the commissioners” shall mean the commissioners, trustees, or other persons or body corporate intrusted by the special Act with powers for executing the purposes thereof”. The “special Act” is a reference to any subsequent legislation passed for the improvement or regulation of any town or district.

Section 3: “The word “street” shall extend to and include any road, square, court, alley, and thoroughfare, within the limits of the special Act”.

Section 64: “The commissioners shall from time to time cause the houses and buildings in all or any of the streets to be marked with numbers as they think fit, and shall cause to be put up or painted on a conspicuous part of some house, building, or place, at or near each end, corner, or entrance of every such street, the name by which such street is to be known; and every person who destroys, pulls down, or defaces any such number or name, or puts up any number or name different from the number or name put up by the commissioners, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale for every such offence.”

In our view the term commissioners would include local authorities (and see our commentary below on the effect of the Public Health Act 1875).

Broadly the legislation requires the authority to number houses and buildings on the streets in their area and to name the streets in their area. 

A criminal offence is committed by anyone who destroys, pulls down or defaces any such number or name or puts up any replacement to that chosen by the authority. 

Section 65: “The occupiers of houses and other buildings in the streets shall mark their houses with such numbers as the commissioners approve of, and shall renew such numbers as often as they become obliterated or defaced; and every such occupier who fails, within one week after notice for that purpose from the commissioners, to mark his house with a number approved of by the commissioners, or to renew such number when obliterated, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale, and the commissioners shall cause such numbers to be marked or to be renewed, as the case may require, and the expense thereof shall be repaid to them by such occupier, and shall be recoverable as damages.”

Section 65 imposes an obligation on the occupiers of properties on the streets in the areas of an authority to mark their properties with numbers approved by the authority and to renew them from time to time.   Again there is a criminal offence committed where any occupier fails to comply with a notice from the authority to renew the numbering.

In Collins v Hornsey Urban Council [1901] 2 KB 180, the land owner had proposed to lay out a new street and referred to a street by a particular name.  The authority had approved all the plans and in all its engagement with the land owner had approved all references to the street names designated by the landowner.  In due course the authority changed the name and put up a street name in the new street.  The landowner objected and defaced the street name.  He was convicted under Section 64.  His case was appealed to the High Court (Divisional Court).  The case appears to turn on the fact that this was a new street and the Court was unwilling to say that Section 64 gave a power to change the name of an “old street”.  However, given this was a new street and the legislation puts the obligation on the authority to put up the name of the street, the Court held that the authority was acting within its powers to do as it did.