Cabmen’s Shelter

Where: Russell Square, WC1

New York’s are yellow, ours are black – taxis can often define a city in the minds of the world. With around 20,000 Hackney carriages running the tarmac tributaries of the Capital, cabbies are often in need of somewhere to have a break. However, in the days before central locking, and even before cars, a cab driver couldn’t leave their horse-drawn carriage unattended.

To alleviate the problem, the Earl of Shaftesbury set up the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund and built 61 shelters around London between 1875 and 1914 at a cost of £200 a go.

These little green huts, restricted by law to be no bigger than a horse and cart, are staffed by an attendant supplying hot food and drinks to working cabbies. Of the original 61 shelters, 13 are still to be found dotted around London. And with Grade II listed status, they should remain around for sometime to come.

Keen to check out these Victorian curios for myself I popped down to Russell Square and was pleased to find two cabs parked up outside the shelter, although there were no signs of it being open for business. This particular hut was relocated here from Leicester Square.

Wikipedia lists the other remaining shelters as being at:

Chelsea Embankment SW3 – close to junction with Albert Bridge, London
Embankment Place WC2 – close to the Playhouse Theatre
Grosvenor Gardens SW1 – to the west side of the north gardens
Hanover Square W1 – on the north side of the central gardens
Kensington Park Road W11 – outside numbers 8-10
Kensington Road W8 – close to the junction of Queen’s Gate SW7
Pont Street SW1 – close to the junction of Sloane Street
St. George’s Square, Pimlico SW1 – on the north side
Temple Place WC2 – opposite side of the road from the Swissötel Howard
Thurloe Place SW7 – in the middle of the road opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum
Warwick Avenue, London W9 – centre of the road, by Warwick Avenue tube station
Wellington Place NW8 – near Lord’s Cricket Ground

If you encounter one of these quaint green huts, spare a thought for the Earl of Shaftesbury, whose forethought and generosity has kept London’s army of cab drivers fed and watered for decades.


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