The Cabmen's Shelter Fund was established in 1875 to run shelters for the drivers of what were back then, hansom cabs (horse and cart carriages) and later hackney carriages (taxicabs). Only 13 of the original 61 shelters still exist and are still run by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. They are all now Grade II listed buildings.
By law cab drivers could not leave the cab rank while their cab was parked there, making it a struggle for cabbies to find a hot meal and respite from the bad weather. If they stopped at a pub, they often risked their cab being stolen and would have to pay someone to look after it, and fares might often find themselves with an inebriated driver. The Earl of Shaftesbury took it upon himself to establish a charity to construct and run shelters throughout London at major cab stands.
These shelters were built as small huts, painted an iconic Buckingham green, which were not allowed to be larger than a horse and cart, as they stood on the public highway. There was a small kitchen in the shelter staffed by an attendant who sold food and drink to the cabbies. Cabbies were even allowed to bring in their own food which the attendant would cook for them. The shelters were fitted with seats and tables which could accommodate ten to thirteen men. Books and newspapers were provided, most of them donated by the publishers or other benefactors. Gambling, drinking and swearing were strictly forbidden.
To this day the shelters operate in much the same way as when they were established. The remaining shelters still provide cabbies with a place to rest and purchase a hot meal cooked by the shelter manager. Entrance to the inside of the shelter is reserved strictly to black cab license holders, however non-license holders can often be served from outside at the hatch.
The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund is currently run by a group of trustees who look after the welfare of the shelters and the shelter managers.