London Guide: Cabmen’s Shelters

Cabmen's Shelter

Ever passed one of those small rectangular green buildings that looks like a garden shed while wandering the streets of London? Well those are London’s remaining cabmen’s shelters!

The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was established in 1875 to build and run these shelters to provide food and drink for London’s cab drivers as drivers were not allowed to leave their cars parked at the cab stand making it difficult for them to get a hot meal during the work day. So the Earl of Shaftesbury and other well to-dos came up with the grand idea to set up a charity to construct and run the shelters at major cabbie stands in the city.

Between 1875 and 1914, 61 of these small green huts, which could be no bigger than a horse and cart, were built around London and staffed by an attendant who sold food and drink (no alcohol!) to the cabbies. Inside the small shelters are enough seats and tables to accommodate ten to thirteen drivers along with books and newspapers so the cabbies can get a proper English tea break. Gambling, drinking and swearing were strictly forbidden though. No shelters of ill repute allowed!

The first shelter was constructed on Acacia Road in St John’s Wood. Today only thirteen of the shelters exist and are still run by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. If you fancy checking them out yourself they are located at:

  • Chelsea Embankment SW3 – close to junction with Albert Bridge
  • Embankment Place WC2 – close to the Playhouse Theatre
  • Grosvenor Gardens SW1 – to the west side of the north gardens
  • Hanover Square W1 – on the north side of the central gardens
  • Kensington Park Road W11 – outside numbers 8-10
  • Kensington Road W8 – close to the junction of Queen’s Gate SW7
  • Pont Street SW1 – close to the junction of Sloane Street
  • Russell Square WC1 – Western Corner
  • St. George’s Square in Pimlico SW1 – on the north side
  • Temple Place WC2 – opposite side of the road from the Swissötel Howard
  • Thurloe Place in Kensington SW7 – in the middle of the road opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Warwick Avenue W9 – in the center of the road right next to Warwick Avenue tube station
  • Wellington Place NW8 – near Lord’s Cricket Ground

Though the public can purchase cheap food and drink from the attendant (think sausage rolls and hot chocolate made from a powder mix), the inside of the shelters are reserved exclusively for cabbie use. However, during the annual Open House London Heritage Days held every September, you have the opportunity to check out the inside of some of the shelters.

Dan and I are lucky enough to live down the street from the one located on Warwick Avenue but have yet to order anything from the window. Perhaps if its raining cats and dogs outside and we smile real big the attendant will let us eat inside with the cabbies!

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