The cabmens’ shelters [‘Bell and Horns’ on left] provided a welcome place for refreshment and rest in their long working day. Of the 47 originally built many have
been lost through bombing or neglect
leaving only thirteen, all of them are now listed buildings.
Only a dozen or so of these green gems remain. They’re worth searching out, because their appearance.
A cross between a cricket pavilion and a large garden shed, its quaint shape serves to underscore the truth that the cab trade is so ancient that it pre-existed the modern city.
But then Ginny sent me this intriguing email:
The other week, we went for a walk and walked into Westminster Abbey Precincts – Dean’s Yard. Lo and behold on the south west corner stood a green cab shelter. What was it doing there? On closer inspection, it was brand new, excellent copy of the Victorian hansom cab shelters we see scattered in London. Its purpose? Well, I leave it to you to find out more!
A pseudo shelter in of all places Dean’s Yard? The appearance of a new ’shelter’ seemed so unusual that I had to find out.
First I contacted Westminster Abbey’s press office for information, receiving no reply Ginny gave me a hint as to its purpose in an article she had found which had appeared on the Guardian’s website:
The bin challenge – or “what to do with a hideous waste compactor” – is being addressed with a delightfully surreal pavilion in the form of a green timber cabman’s shelter in Dean’s Yard.”
The last time a shelter was located in the vicinity of Westminster was one erected in Old Palace Yard paid for by members of both Houses of Parliament, presumably to ensure the politicians would never have to wait for a cab to get them home after a hard day debating in the Chamber.
That one has long since been lost.
Venturing into Dean’s Yard I received some curious glances as I photographed what looks like a large green garden shed in the shadow of the Abbey.
There are differences however, from the standard cabmens’ shelter, being slightly larger it doesn’t conform to the proviso laid down by the Metropolitan Police that, as shelters were situated on the public highway, they could be no larger than a horse and cart. The bar encompassing the ’shelter’ with which to tether your horse is missing, likewise the ornate chimney stack, but much else is identical.
Which begs the question: Was the Abbey’s press office unable to give me details of their waste compactor through lack of information, or are they afraid of being accused of copyright infringement?