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.
‘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
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