Friday, May 12, 2023

Cabbies' shelters and posties' huts in new Idler

Issue 90 of the Idler magazine is out now and it's the most widely distributed to date so do look out for in Waitrose, WH Smiths, Waterstones, etc, or even better take out a subscription here. My regular column on shedlike structures looks at the marvellous cabbies' shelters (mainly in London but also elsewhere in the UK) and postmen's and postwomen's huts which are being researched by Alan Cleaver. Here's a snippet on the shelters (pictured below is the Northumberland Avenue shelter, courtesy Ethan Doyle White):

Most of the busy people in busy London have probably never noticed the baker’s dozen of cabmen’s shelters that survive in the capital. But these 19th Grade II listed delights boast a long history as well as intriguing architecture, and we have the The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund (CSF) to thank for them.


This 1875 charity, still operational today, was established in 1875 to give Victorian hansom cabbies a much-needed resting point. It was illegal for them to leave their cabs unattended in the rank, so when they needed somewhere warm and dry to put their feet up briefly and grab a bite to eat, they often headed to a pub. But this was costly – they would have to pay a good citizen to keep an eye out on it to prevent its theft – and also, drinking and driving are not fine bedfellows.


Enter Sir George Carlyon Hughes Armstrong, Bart, the hugely successful managing editor of The Globe newspaper. His idea was to provide a permanent wooden shelter for cabbies on the ranks and so established the CSF. Designs varied over the years – the first one was even moveable – but the green ornamental ones drawn up by architect Maximillian Clarke  which have weathered the last 150 years are particularly aesthetically pleasing. Early funding came from philanthropists but others were financed through local neighbourhood residents. Although the London shelters are the most common, similar buildings (built along similar architectural lines) were also set up outside London in places like Bradford, Ripon, and Newcastle.


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