Cabman’s Shelters

Have you ever spotted the diminutive green ‘garden sheds’ dotted around London and wondered what they were?  Well, these wooden structures have in fact been part of the street-scene serving refreshments and providing shelter to London cabbies since 1875.

The first London cabs to be licenced were the ‘Hansom Cabs’ in 1639.  These horse-drawn carriages left drivers open to London’s inclement weather and often led to them seeking refuge in Public Houses whilst their lads watched the horses.  All too often the draw of a pint in the warmth proved too tempting and inevitably they had one too many.

History dictates in 1875 that Captain Armstrong, editor of The Globe newspaper, was so frustrated at not being able to find a ride home that he decided to take matters into his own hands.  Along with the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Captain Armstrong founded the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund building respite huts at a cost of £200 that, under guidance from the Metropolitan Police, were no larger than a horse and cart allowing enough space for 10-13 men. The shelters were placed at the busiest ranks around London and the cabbies were served hot food and drinks for a nominal sum by a shelter attendant.  As you can imagine there was a strict prohibition on alcoholic beverages!

Although 61 were originally built, today only 13 remain due to the Second World War and road widening works.  Those that have survived have been given Grade II listed status by the English Heritage.   They are now run by tenants who pay a small rental contribution to The Cabmen’s Shelter Charity and members of the general public can buy a cuppa or bacon butty from the service window but entrance to the huts remain strictly for cabbies.

Some surviving shelters located close to Wellbelove Quested can be found on Chelsea Embankment overlooking the Albert Bridge, Grosvenor Gardens and Pont Street.

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