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The Cabbies’ Shelters Of Old London

January 24, 2015
by the gentle author

Inspired by the life-size replica of a cabbies’ shelter that Contributing Artist Adam Dant has installed as the centrepiece of his new exhibition at the Bloomberg Space in Finsbury Sq, I set out to photograph those still to be found on the streets of London.

Created between 1875 and 1914, sixty of these structures were built by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund established by the Earl of Shaftesbury¬†to enable cabbies to get a meal without leaving their cabs unattended and were no larger than a horse and cart so they might stand upon the public highway.

Today, only thirteen remain but all are grade II listed and, on my chilly pilgrimage around London in the winter sunshine this week, I found them welcoming homely refuges where a cup of tea can be had for just 50p.

Thurloe Place, SW7

Embankment Place, Wc2

Wellington Place, NW8

Chelsea Embankment, SW3

Grosvenor Gardens, SW1

St Georges Sq, SW1

Kensington Park Rd, W11

Temple Place, WC2

Warwick Ave, W9

Russell Sq, WC1

Kensington Rd, W8

Pont St, SW1

Hanover Sq, W1

The shelter attendant at Wellington Place has special spoon-bending powers

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22 Responses leave one →
  1. Ellen in NEW England permalink
    January 24, 2015

    Holey moley, those tiny take out shops are SO CUTE!!!

  2. Jeannette permalink
    January 24, 2015

    how very nice. the menus intrigue me, and i couldn’t read any of them. thank you also for the cozy compact interior shot.

  3. January 24, 2015

    What interesting little places! I hadn’t heard of these but am glad they’ve been rescued and listed so we can still see them and will be sure to look out for them next time I’m out and about. Thanks for this lovely post!

  4. January 24, 2015

    I have often seen these little shelters, but never knew that they were shelters for the cabbies. Great that some of them survived and are still in use! Valerie

  5. January 24, 2015

    Wonderful images! The cabbies’ shelters were only one of the enormous range of philanthropic projects instigated or supported by Lord Shaftesbury: see his biography at http://bit.ly/1uFWfTe

  6. Jacqueline Sarsby permalink
    January 24, 2015

    Quite fascinating. Never realized before just what they were.

  7. Robert Weston permalink
    January 24, 2015

    So Happy to see such a thoughtful photo record of these Cabmen’s Shelters and their current use and condition!
    I was among the 7 Historians of the G L C’s Historic Buildings Division who worked on research and recording of listed buildings when these little gems were listed back in the late 1970′s.

  8. Julia permalink
    January 24, 2015

    There is also one on Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead Green, NW3, although sadly it has been re-built in a much plainer style.
    It can be viewed here: http://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.552823,-0.168435,3a,75y,42.61h,78.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sI93bYRHBQIot_dstn7DR5w!2e0

  9. Alan Taylor permalink
    January 24, 2015

    There is another shelter in South End Green, Hampstead.

  10. Joan Halliday permalink
    January 24, 2015

    Well done for featuring these vestiges of a time gone by, and still being used today. They are so familiar on London’s streets and I have always wondered how they looked inside. Thank you for featuring them!

  11. January 24, 2015

    Fine! In Germany they are called Kiosk. There are thousands of them everywhere. And you can get nearly everything from this little huts!
    https://www.google.de/search?newwindow=1&hl=de&biw=960&bih=495&site=imghp&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=kioske&oq=kioske&gs_l=img.12..0l3j0i24l7.2228664.2228664.0.2231545.1.1.0.0.0.0.210.210.2-1.1.0.msedr…0…1c.1.61.img..0.1.204.oZ2TBIWRtlU

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  12. January 24, 2015

    I had a very nice fry-up breakfast in the one in St John’s Wood, with my son, when he was a baby and I was a new mum, going slightly mad with motherhood. It was great – seats round the edge facing in and a kind of plank at table height to eat from. I don’t know if we were let in as a special treat because I had a baby with me, I suspect non-cabbies don’t usually get to eat inside.
    We ate alongside some cabbies who weren’t very communicative.
    The woman in charge had commissioned her son to paint a mural on the inside, I think it was of some taxis. It looked great.

  13. Hetty Startup permalink
    January 24, 2015

    Any ideas about who designed them?

  14. Victoria permalink
    January 24, 2015

    Wonderful photos. Always lifts my spirits when I happen upon one of these shelters. Love the green colour, so very 1930s!

  15. January 24, 2015

    Have been using these on and off for the past 24 years most have their regulars days/nights alas a vanishing part of the cab trade, I actually picked up Lord Shaftesbury many years ago and had a chat about them it it said they came about to stop the poor blokes freezing outside or getting drunk in the pubs trying to keep warm..

  16. January 25, 2015

    Last year there was a wonderful public art project responding these amazing shelters, there is lots of info on the site. When I read about it , straight away I thought of you, Gentle Author, knowing you would adore them.I can now see here that you do !!.Great photos.
    http://cabbiesshelters.org/

  17. January 26, 2015

    Thank you. I was born in London in 1925 so remember the shelters (and horse troughs, the muffin man, lamplighter, etc). Some are still around today…what happy nostalgia.

  18. Kassie Schwan permalink
    January 26, 2015

    I visit London as often as possible, and have always loved spotting these “huts” all over town. The first time I noticed one, many years ago, I crept up to a side window and saw inside a cozy clutch of hungry men (all cabbies?) very busy tucking in. Learning the quirky history behind these structures has delighted me. Thank you for this post!

  19. Shawdiane permalink
    January 27, 2015

    SUPERB LITTLE TREASURES. I want one :)
    Never knew such delights were even in existence.
    Thank you – You never fail to suprise me me.

  20. John Casey permalink
    January 28, 2015

    Not so welcoming if you’re a wheelchair user :/

  21. February 4, 2015

    Wonderful!!!

  22. Mrs Joyce Snipp permalink
    January 16, 2017

    When I was kid in Lewisham. in the 1930′s I can remember a Green Cab Shelter. Almost on the River Quaggy. I believe that it was supported by stilts projecting from the footway. Can’t find any records or Photo’s . It would have been nearly opposite St.Stephens Church. Before The Quaggy went under the road where it joined the River Ravenbourne. Any ideas please.?

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