When navigating London’s busy streets, you might overlook the tiny green structures scattered throughout the city. These unique installations are London’s historic cabbie shelters, established as safe havens for cab drivers. Today, only 13 of these unique shelters remain, with 12 still operating.
Understanding the Cabbie Shelters
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, cabbie shelters refer to the compact, cricket-pavilion-style huts scattered around London. These historic structures have offered warmth, comfort, and companionship to generations of cab drivers. Today, each remaining cabbie shelter is a Grade II listed structure, preserving a slice of London’s history.
Exploring the Embankment Place Cabbie Shelter
The Embankment Place cabbie shelter is probably the most recognised of the lot. Nestled at the junction of Embankment and Northumberland Avenue, this shelter is a short walk from the Playhouse Theatre. After winning a design competition in 1881, Maximilian Clarke was tasked with crafting this iconic shelter. Boasting a steeply pitched roof, decorative fretwork, and the ‘CSF’ monogram, it was replaced in 1915.
Northumberland Avenue has an intriguing history, once being the London residence of the Dukes of Northumberland. A fire in 1866 significantly damaged the property, leading the Duke to sell it to the Metropolitan Board of Works for £500,000.
The Chelsea Embankment Shelter: Romance Meets the Everyday
The Chelsea Embankment SW3 cabbie shelter, overlooking the stunning Albert Bridge, enjoys an undoubtedly romantic location. However, it’s no more than a simple eatery, endearingly known as ‘The Pier,’ near Cadogan Pier. In the 1970s, it earned the nickname ‘The Kremlin,’ renowned for being a meeting spot for left-leaning cabbies. Unfortunately, it has been closed for years due to the scarcity of nearby parking for cab drivers.
Visiting the Russell Square Shelter
While only black cab drivers are allowed inside a cabbie’s shelter, the public can still enjoy takeaway from these unique eateries. The Russell Square shelter is a great spot for this, thanks to the abundance of seating in the vicinity. And for those with a sweet tooth, there’s a phone box filled with tiramisu on the other side of the square!
Remaining Cabbie Shelters
Here’s a list of the remaining cabmen’s shelters you might wish to visit:
Russell Square WC1 – NW Corner
Thurloe Place, Kensington SW7 – Opposite the V&A Museum
Embankment Place WC2 – Near the Playhouse Theatre
Warwick Avenue, London W9 – Near Warwick Avenue Tube Station
Grosvenor Gardens SW1 – W Gardens
Kensington Park Road W11 – Outside numbers 8-10
Kensington Road W8 – Near Queen’s Gate SW7
Pont Street SW1 – Close to Sloane Street Junction
Temple Place WC2 – Opposite Swissötel Howard
Wellington Place NW8 – Near Lord’s Cricket Ground
Hanover Square, London W1 – NE Corner
Chelsea Embankment – Near to the Albert Bridge
These shelters offer a glimpse into London’s past, connecting us with the city’s historic black cab legacy. To hear more about cabbie shelters and London’s black cab history, tune into our podcast Episode 56: London’s Black Cab Legacy