London's last remaining cabmen's shelter receives official heritage status


By AGENCY

A view of the cabmen's shelter in St John's Wood, a suburb north west of London. Photo: AFP

The last of London's remaining cabmen's shelters - distinctive green huts that once provided much-needed rest stops for licenced horse-drawn cab drivers - has been given protected heritage status, it was announced recently.

Only 13 of the picturesque wooden huts - once dotted across the British capital in the Victorian era - have survived, with all of them now Grade II listed by Historic England for their architectural and historic importance.

The public body responsible for renowned and old monuments, it completed the protective designations by adding a shelter in St John's Wood in northwest London, known locally as "The Chapel".

The first cabmen's shelter in London was built in 1875. Photo: AFP The first cabmen's shelter in London was built in 1875. Photo: AFP

"These are really important because they are relics of the age of horse-drawn hansom cabs in London," Luke Jacob, listing advisor at Historic England, told AFP.

"There's an unbroken history from 1875 all the way up to the present day of these serving licensed cab drivers in London."

He explained the listing "obviously doesn't protect shelters from being crashed into by cars or buses - as does happen sometimes".

But it means that they have to be "carefully thought about when there's road widening schemes or there are changes in road layouts," Jacob said.

Only 13 of these shelters survive in London today and they are now all protected as listed buildings, recognising their architectural and historic importance. Photo: AFP Only 13 of these shelters survive in London today and they are now all protected as listed buildings, recognising their architectural and historic importance. Photo: AFP

The green wooden huts first appeared in the city in 1875 to serve as pit stops for coachmen.

Once numbering in the thousands, the last of London's hansom cab drivers stopped operating in 1947.

All the huts were built by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund, which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.

The 13 remaining shelters were restored in a campaign by Heritage of London Trust during the 1980s and 1990s, and some have been repurposed to offer takeaway refreshments to the public.

The wooden huts were built by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund as much-needed rest stops for licenced cab drivers, at a time when cabs were all horse-drawn. Photo: AFP The wooden huts were built by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund as much-needed rest stops for licenced cab drivers, at a time when cabs were all horse-drawn. Photo: AFP

"This shelter is more than just a taxi shelter. This is like a little hub in this community," said Andrey Armanda-Markovic, who has been the keeper for "The Chapel" for the past 18 years.

"These people are not only cab drivers but they have all these wonderful lives and they bring it all together and we learn from each other," he said of the shelter's regular visitors.

"We're a family rather than a business. That's the difference between this and let's say Pret a Manger or something else. This is real." – AFP

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Heritage , status , London , cabmen , shelter , cab driver , history

   

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