Two of the 13 remaining distinctive green cabmen’s shelters that used to be a common sight in central London have been given historic listing status to protect them.

Cabman’s shelter on Chelsea Embankment – Chris Redgrave, (c) Historic England Archive

The shelters in Kensington and Chelsea at Pont Street and Chelsea Embankment were designed as rest stops for licensed cab drivers and join ten others in London already on the National Heritage List. Of the 61 shelters known to have been built, only 13 shelters survive in the capital today – and now all but one have heritage protection.

The reason that cab shelters exist at all is thanks to Victorian opinions about cab drivers.

In Victorian London cabmen were prohibited by law from leaving their cabs unattended in the rank, but while on the job there was no protection from the elements, access to hot food or a place to rest. This led many drivers to stop at a pub between fares. However, they would have to pay someone to look after their cab, risk it being stolen, and some drivers were found to maybe overindulge in the pub, making them a danger to their later passengers.

The idea of providing shelters on the ranks was first conceived by Captain George C Armstrong, editor of The Globe newspaper. The story goes that when Armstrong was unable to get a cab during a storm because the drivers had all sought refuge in local pubs, he decided to band together a group of wealthy and influential philanthropists to provide a solution. He helped establish The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund (CSF) in London in 1875, providing warm and dry rest stops at ranks across the capital.

The charity still operates today.

Inside, the shelter is reserved strictly for black cab licence holders, but the public can be served from outside the hatch.

Most of London cabmen’s shelters have been lost – their roadside position made them prone to damage from traffic and vandalism or impacted by changes to road layout. Of the 61 shelters known to have been built between 1875 and 1950 only 13 now survive.

The two shelters to be listed today are at Pont Street near Sloane Square and on the Chelsea Embankment.

Cabman’s shelter on Pont Street – Chris Redgrave, (c) Historic England Archive

Emily Gee, London and the South East Regional Director, Historic England, said: “We’re delighted to see these two cabmen’s shelters gain the recognition they deserve. They are London icons just as much as the red bus or black cab and a reminder of how our transport systems have changed over time. It’s wonderful to see these historic structures still in use today or finding a new lease of life – long may it continue.”

All told now, 12 of the surviving 13 shelters are now protected.

All Cabmen’s Shelters in London:

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2 comments
  1. pbrobinson says:

    Which is the remaining unlucky number 13 which is the unprotected one?

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