Untill 1951, England had laws strictly prohibiting the practice of witchcraft. When the last act was repealed in 1951, Gerald Gardner began to publish his work, and brought witchcraft back into the public eye without threat of prosecution. Put into effect on June 1, 1653, th Witchcraft Laws mandated the outlawing of any kind of witchcraft-related activities. The 1951 repeal made it easier for modern wiccans -- Gardner was bale to go public just a few years later, when he published Witchcraft today in 1954.
It is important to note that the 1653 witchcraft laws were not the first to appear in the english judicial system. In 1541, King Henry VIII passed a piece of legislation that made witchcraft a felony punishable by death. In 1562 his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, passed a new law that said withccraft would only be punishable with death if harm had been caused. If no physical harm was done to the alleged victim, then the accused only faced life imprisonment.
Prior to the repeal of the english witchcraft laws, British pagans had to practice in secret to avoid prosecution.