Cabman's Shelter, 1892.
Reasons for Designation
The Pont Street cabmen’s shelter, erected 1892 by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its distinctive ornamental design and neatly detailed, well-executed carpentry work.
* as a fine example of a shelter erected by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund in 1892 based on Maximillian Clarke’s design of 1882.
* as a rare and well-preserved relic of London’s hansom cab trade.
* with the registered Cadogan Square PAG, the listed terraces to the east on Cadogan Place and other listed buildings on Sloane Street to the west.
The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund (CSF) was established in London in January 1875 for the purpose of supplying cabmen, when on the ranks, with a place of shelter where they could rest and order refreshments. Prior to the establishment of dedicated shelters, the drivers of London’s horse-drawn hansom cabs were constantly exposed to the elements and prohibited by law from leaving the rank when waiting for custom. Consequently, many took shelter in pubs between trips, which had a tendency to lead them to ‘drink more than is good for their health or behaviour’, as the Illustrated London News of 20 February 1875 reported. The idea of providing shelters on the ranks was first conceived in 1874 by Captain George C Armstrong, editor of The Globe newspaper. When Armstrong’s servant was unable to obtain 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. Under the presidency of the Earl of Shaftsbury, and with the support of notable figures including of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), the Duke of Westminster and the writer George Moore, the Fund began constructing small cabins along many major thoroughfares for the benefit of London’s cabmen. The first was a moveable shelter on Acacia Road in St John’s Wood, outside Armstrong’s house. This was built in February 1875 to a simple design, consisting of a part-glazed timber panelled box with a shallow-pitched roof and canted end bays, without any notable decorative features.
Later shelter designs by prominent architects became more sophisticated. In 1879 George Aitchison was appointed the first Honorary Architect to the CSF and a more detailed design was established. A long since lost example outside the Law Courts on The Strand (photographed in the late C19) with an ornate hipped and double-tiered roof integrating a thin clerestory and decorative finials appears to reflect Aitchison’s influence. Also established under his influence was the standard rectangular framework for shelters. Some of these key design tropes were further developed by architect Maximillian Clarke, responsible for what became the most recognisable ‘ornamental’ shelter type. This design was distinguished by its hipped roof with gablets and ornamental dormers, overhanging eaves with exposed joist ends, a central louvered ventilation lantern and decorative fretwork panels bearing the ‘CSF’ monogram.
The first Pont Street shelter was built in 1875 as one of the earliest cabmen’s shelters by the CSF, though was soon replaced after falling into poor condition in the 1890s. The rebuilt shelter was opened by the MP for Chelsea, Algernon Whitmore, on 25 October 1892. According to the Pall Mall Gazette, the shelter was put up ‘in place of a decayed and unserviceable one’ with the costs (approximately £160 to £200 for most shelters at this time) largely provided by contributions from residents of the local neighbourhood (‘London Cabbies’ Street Snuggeries’, Pall Mall Gazette, 25 October 1892, p7). The shelter was reported in the same article to be well used, with average attendance of cabbies daily varying from 12 to 180, but often much higher numbers on the busiest days. It was further noted that the first two drivers on the rank were not allowed inside the shelter in order to prevent delays. The rebuilt shelter was built broadly to Clarke’s ornamental shelter design, though some features have been simplified following repairs in the late-C20. Photographs from 1973 and 1975 indicate the Pont Street shelter formerly had gablets and overhanging eaves with exposed joists to its end bays, though these features were not replaced as part of the later repairs.
Over the course of the C20 most London Cabmen’s Shelters were lost. Owing to their positions in relatively exposed sites, generally alongside or in the middle of key thoroughfares, the shelters were prone to damage from traffic and vandalism, and vulnerable to the impacts of metropolitan road-widening schemes. Of the 61 shelters known to have been built between 1875 and 1950 only 13 now survive. Included in this number is the Pont Street shelter, which continues to serve London’s cab drivers and is still overseen and maintained by the CSF. The internal fixtures and fittings have been largely modernised, but the same galley kitchen and bench arrangement remains.
Cabmen’s shelter, built 1892 by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund to Maximilian Clarke's ‘ornamental’ design of the 1880s to replace a previous shelter of 1875.
MATERIALS: oak frame with deal cladding, painted Buckingham green.
PLAN: rectangular footprint, with open-plan galley kitchen and communal cabmen’s mess section with benches set against the walls.
EXTERIOR: shelter of nine framed bays with two end bays, set on an elevated platform. The posts and rails of the timber frame are expressed with panels of vertical boarding set between. The entrance door is on the north side with a central serving window from the kitchen galley on the west end. Two rectangular windows with pivoting hopper lights to the panel above are present on the south side. Similar windows are present on the north side, though with an additional pair of windows flanking the door. To the east end there are two central windows with large pivoting hopper lights above, also integrated within the upper panel. The roof is hipped with overhanging eaves and exposed joist ends, and there is a louvered ventilation lantern in the centre of the ridge capped with a tented rooflet. The shingle tiles are modern replacements.
INTERIOR: fittings are mostly modern, although the basic arrangement of a galley kitchen and serving hatch with a cabmen’s communal section at the opposing end is still in evidence. Replacement bench tops in the cabmen’s mess section.