Green cab shelters

Green Cab Shelters are a quaint anachronism from Victorian days and very, very English. First of all, as a result of the stipulations at the time, that Green Cab Shelters had to be situated on public highways. They could be no bigger than a horse and cart. Because of this ruling, do not draw attention to themselves, and as a result, they are often overlooked.

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‘Offsales are for all but only those with “The Knowledge” get a seat inside.’

These small Green Cab Shelters, providing refreshments are dotted around London’s streets. Seek them out for many open to the public for takeaway sales, and hence are well worth a visit.

Out in all weathers

In Victorian days, the cab driver’s vehicle of choice was a Hansom Cab. A horse-drawn carriage which was open to the elements for the cabbie. He was expected to ‘sit on the box’ in rain, snow, cold and wind waiting for a fare, consequently the only place of sustenance being the comfort of a public house.

To use a hostelry meant paying someone to watch the cab and the horse, due to it being illegal to leave them unattended. For this, most cabbies would have a lad who was employed for this purpose, as well as for the carrying of cases and general menial jobs.

The Green Cab Shelters addressed those concerns

Equipped with somewhere to tie up the horse, a small kitchen they could serve food, seating for up to 13 diners. Most of all, when Green Cab Shelters first opened in 1875 they supplied books and newspapers, a luxury for the poorly paid cabbies.

Most noteworthy of all, gambling, drinking, swearing and political discussion were strictly forbidden.

Green Cab Shelters have been providing shelter and sustenance to cabbies for over 140 years. Check out their history, construction, facilities and miscellaneous facts.

Follow these links for more information about Green Cab Shelters

Early years
13 Survivors
Those lost

Check out the last Green Cab Shelters

Only a dozen or so of these Green Cab Shelters. Many cabbie huts were destroyed in the Blitz. With the subsequent post-war redevelopment and road widening the shelters went into decline leaving only thirteen. When the Greater London Council folded, the bacon butty was passed to the Heritage of London Trust. They have underwritten the renovation of all but two of the Green Cab Shelters, at a cost of £25,000 each. They are now Grade II listed buildings and protected by English Heritage. They’re worth searching out. Their appearance – a cross between a cricket pavilion and a large garden shed – serves to underscore the truth that the cab trade is so ancient that it pre-existed the modern city.

Go and visit one during the London Open House weekend, or just buy a takeaway.

Main image: Cab shelter, Kensington Road from a bus © 1Q89

24 thoughts on “Green cab shelters”

  1. I worked at Little Venice cab shelter about 20 years ago and loved it wish I could do it again. Love the cabbies so looked after me “Is there a space for me and pie and mash” as I worked.


    1. Thanks I hope you liked my summary of London’s Green Cab Shelters. Unfortunately its a diminishing asset, with drivers choosing Pret a Manager or any other of the more fashionable outlets.


  2. My godmother Mrs Beatty ran the Warwick Avenue shelter and on occasion looked after me there. Lovely memory as my great grandfather, both grandfathers, various uncles were all cabbies.


    1. What a wonderful memory. I’m hoping to try to write a definitive account of the Cabbies’ Green Shelters when I have time. Thanks for the comment it will help in my research.


  3. My father used to take me into the shelter in St John’s wood early 70s. The cabbies used to have to watch their language. I was around 10 years old. The shelter was run by a man called Leslie.


    1. Your Dad must have got you special dispensation as you hadn’t undertaken the Knowledge!!


  4. I’m not a cabbie but use them for takeaways. I was told by a cabbie outside Warwick Avenue that they survived until they were listed because of an anomaly regarding their tenure. Evidently the councils in the past thought it simple matter to remove them as they were on the highway and many disappeared. Perhaps it was a legal challenge subsequently that revealed the right to demolish wasn’t so clear cut. Maybe you could shed so light on this aspect. Perhaps it was similar to squatters rights?


    1. Thanks for supporting the Green Shelters, if you haven’t already ask the shelter manager if you can look inside.
      The Grosvenor Gardens Shelter is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
      List entry Number: 1448892; Grade: II; first listed: 1st August 2017.
      As I now understand it all the remaining shelters are now Grade II Listed, something that’s saving the Chelsea Embankment Shelter that has been empty for a few years.


    1. Well according to:

      1897 Earl’s Court Station – In 1899 moved to Brompton Oratory
      Listing, it would appear that the date of construction.


  5. Thank you for your help with the Lost Shelter list. My Grandson is writing a school project & looking at the list he wondered why the Warwick Road Shelter listed it has being moved from South Kensington in 1900 and then further down the list it read 1888 Warwick Road. Do you think this was a miss print. It seems to indicate 2 different dates for Warwick Road Shelter. Perhaps you know why, and you could let us know. Thank you for your time.


    1. They often moved the shelters, for instance, the Russell Square Shelter has moved from Haymarket (a theatre owner paid for its construction), and it then went to Russell Square on the south-west corner, when the 2012 Olympics came to London they used Russell Square as a transport hub, and the Shelter was renovated and moved to the north-west corner. Unfortunately, much of the information’s accuracy retained regarding many Shelters is very questionable, as in Warwick Road. Your Grandson might like to research (using CabbieBlog) the Shelter’s fascinating history. In fact the g-g-grandaughter of the Shelter’s original sponsor has often contacted me for her research into here family’s history.


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