A potted history of cabs

By granting an extension to Uber’s licence to operate in London Sadiq Khan appears to have given up supporting the London Taxi Trade unlike Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Alaska, Iceland, China, Taiwan. As the world’s oldest cab trade starts its slow slide into oblivion here is a short post on its long history.

In the early 1600 Hackney carriages, or ‘Hackney Hell-Carts, appeared on London’s streets.

The first recognised cab rank established by Captain Bailey at the Maypole in the Strand (where St Mary-le-Strand church is today).

King Charles I issued a proclamation restricting the number of Hackney coaches to just 50, and they were only allowed to pick up passengers who were travelling more than 3 miles.

Oliver Cromwell orders the Court of Aldermen of the City of London to grant licences to 200 hackney coachmen. A 6-mile limit was imposed as London’s chain of defences, that had been erected during the Civil War in 1642, only extended to that perimeter and beyond it was considered unsafe.

These licences are revoked, some say for drunkenness, others that the aldermen favoured Cavaliers to Roundheads.

Restoration of the Monarchy leads to restoration of licences.

The Hackney Coach Office is set up to regulate the trade.

Introduction of ‘Conditions of Fitness’ for hackney carriages.

The number of hackney licences increases to one thousand.

An Act of Parliament gave the Hackney carriage trade the sole right to use their coaches as ‘hearses and mourning coaches at funerals’.

Duties of the Hackney Coach Office transferred to the Stamp Office.

Joseph Hansom patents his two-wheel cabriolet (the Hansom cab).

A four-wheel version follows – the ‘Clarence’, aka the ‘Growler’.

Control of the cab trade passes from the Stamp Office to the Commissioner of Police and the Public Carriage Office is formed soon after.

Introduction of ‘The Knowledge’ by Police Commissioner, Sir Richard Mayne.

An Act of Parliament gave the Commissioner of Police authority to regulate the manner in which the carriages were to be fitted and furnished, and importantly the number of persons allowed to be carried.

The most famous cab the Hansom by Henry Forder of Wolverhampton was introduced as an improvement on the previous model.

London’s first cab shelter is built, thanks to Captain Armstrong.

The Public Carriage Office moves to premises in Scotland Yard.

Wilhelm Bruhn invents the taximeter.

Walter Bersey launches a fleet of battery-operated cabs.

The first internal-combustion engine cabs are introduced by Prunel, a Frenchman.

Regulations were introduced requiring all cabs to be fitted with a taximeter.

Publication of the first ‘Blue Book’.

The great cab drivers’ strike when cab fleet owners increased fuel charges by 60 per cent.

The Public Carriage Office moves to 109 Lambeth Road and the first taxi school opens, run by the British Legion.

The last licence for a horse-drawn cab is issued (and rescinded the following year).

At the outbreak of the war 2,500 taxis were converted into auxiliary fire fighting engines, ambulances and Army personnel carriers.

The Public Carriage Office moves to 15 Penton Street.

CabbieBlog gets his green badge.

Administration of the Public Carriage Office passes from the Metropolitan Police to Transport for London.

The Public Carriage Office is re-named ‘London Taxi and Private Hire Licensing’ and re-locates to 197 Blackfriars Road.

2 thoughts on “A potted history of cabs”

  1. At a very quick first glance I thought the title said, “A History of Potted Crabs”. Maybe you could add that to your list for some future date. As usual super info., thanks.


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