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Events from the year 1871 in the United Kingdom.
- 1 January — Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the Irish Church Act 1869 comes into effect.
- 26 January — Rugby Football Union established in London.
- 10 February — Great Gale in the North Sea: 28 ships wrecked and total fatalities are estimated at over fifty, including six crew of Bridlington life-boat Harbinger.
- 7 March — The first rugby international results in a 4–1 win by Scotland over England.
- 13 March — Britain, Russia, France, Austria, Turkey and Italy agree to abrogate the 1856 Treaty of Paris ending Black Sea neutrality
- 21 March — Marriage of Princess Louise to John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, whose father, the 8th Duke of Argyll, is the serving Secretary of State for India.
- 29 March — The Royal Albert Hall is opened by Queen Victoria.
- 2 April — Census in the United Kingdom, the first to record economic and mental status.
- 24 April — Murder of servant girl Jane Clouson in Eltham.
- 11 May — The first trial in the Tichborne case begins in the Court of Common Pleas (England).
- 26 May — Parliament passes the Bank Holidays Act creating four annual bank holidays (five in Scotland).
- 29 May — First bank holiday held on Whit Monday.
- 6 June — Smith v Hughes, a landmark case in English contract law, is decided in the Court of Queen's Bench, allowing an objective approach to interpretation of the parties' conduct when entering into a contract.
- 18 June — The Universities Tests Act removes restrictions limiting access to Oxford, Cambridge and Durham universities to members of the Church of England.
- 29 June — Trade unions legalised by act of parliament.
- 20 July — C. W. Alcock proposes that 'a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association', giving birth to the FA Cup.
- 17 August — Regulation of the Forces Act centralises and regularises control of the British Army as part of the Cardwell Reforms, creating a structure of regional Brigade (Regimental) Districts.
- 21 August — Pedlars Act requires pedlars to be licenced.
- 1 November — Sale of commissions in the British Army abolished as part of the Cardwell Reforms.
- 7 November — The London—Australia telegraph cable is brought ashore at Darwin.
- 10 November — Welsh-born journalist Henry Morton Stanley locates missing Scottish explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, and allegedly greets him saying "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
- 17 November — George Biddell Airy presents his discovery that astronomical aberration is independent of the local medium.
- 25 November — First performance of The Bells starring Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre, London.