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Cabmen's Shelter, Grosvenor Gardens

A Grade II Listed Building in City of Westminster, London

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Latitude: 51.4977 / 51°29'51"N

Longitude: -0.1474 / 0°8'50"W

OS Eastings: 528697

OS Northings: 179267

OS Grid: TQ286792

Mapcode National: GBR CK.29

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.DMG7

Plus Code: 9C3XFVX3+33

Entry Name: Cabmen's Shelter, Grosvenor Gardens

Listing Date: 1 August 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1448892

ID on this website: 101448892

Location: Belgravia, Westminster, London, SW1W

County: London

District: City of Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: Knightsbridge and Belgravia

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Tagged with: Architectural structure Cabmen's Shelters in London

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Cabmen’s shelter of 1906, built for the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund (CSM) to a modified version of Maximilian Clarke’s ‘ornamental’ design of 1882. Initially erected in 1906 on Hobart Place and later relocated to Grosvenor Gardens.


Cabmen’s shelter first erected in 1906 on Hobart Place and later relocated to Grosvenor Gardens. A slightly modified version of the 1882 Maximilian Clarke ‘ornamental’ design for the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund.

MATERIALS: oak frame with deal cladding (painted green) and an oak shingle roof.

PLAN: rectangular footprint, with an open-plan galley kitchen and communal cabmen’s mess area.

EXTERIOR: a single-storey shelter of seven main bays with three end bays, set on an elevated platform which straddles the pavement and the road. Horizontal and vertical members of the timber frame are expressed with panels of vertical boarding set between. The entrance door is on the north-east side with a central pivoting serving window from the kitchen galley to the north-west end. Square-headed, six-light windows with glazing bars and pivoting hopper lights above (mostly replacement frosted plastic glazing) are distributed evenly along both sides of the shelter; two sets to the entrance side flanking the entrance and a trio on the opposing side, of which the northern pair have been painted over. The south-east end has a set of three windows, matching those to the side elevations, occupying each of its bays. Fretwork panels bearing the ‘CSM’ monogram embellished with ribboned garlands are set below the eaves course, positioned alternately between window bays on the sides of the shelter. The roof is half-hipped and has overhanging eaves with exposed joists. Louvered gablets are set to the ends and to each side, and a square, louvered ventilation lantern with ornamental dormers in the centre of the ridge is capped with a tented rooflet.

INTERIOR: internally the fittings are 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 and tongue-and-grove seat-back panelling feature in the communal section. A hatch to the ventilation lantern is retained in the centre of the ceiling.


The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was established in London in January 1875 ‘for the purpose of supplying Cabmen, when on the ranks, with a place of shelter where they can obtain good and wholesome refreshments at very moderate prices.’ In the late C19, the drivers of London’s horse-drawn hansom cabs were constantly exposed to the elements and were 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. Under the presidency of the Earl of Shaftsbury, and with the support of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), the Duke of Westminster and the writer George Moore amongst others, 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. 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 shelters designed by prominent architects became more sophisticated. In 1873, a larger cabin with improved facilities at Palace Yard was commissioned from Gibson and Maitland, the architects who had won first prize in a competition for a model shelter at Alexandra Palace. By 1879, George Aitchison was appointed as the first Honorary Architect to the Fund and a more ornate type of design was established. A long since lost example outside the Law Courts on The Strand (photographed in the late C19) with an ornate double-tiered hipped roof integrating a thin clerestory and decorative finials appear to reflect Aitchison’s influence. Also established under Aitchison was the standard rectangular framework, which was to be repeated with only minor alterations up to 1918. Some of these key design tropes were further developed by the architect Maximilian Clarke, who was responsible for the form of what became the most recognisable ‘ornamental’ shelter type. Following a competition in 1881, Clarke’s firm (Harvey and Clarke) were appointed to design a shelter for Northumberland Avenue (built 1882; replaced 1915). Key features of this design included a steeply pitched hipped roof with gablets and ornamental dormers, overhanging eaves with exposed rafters, a central louvered ventilation lantern and decorative fretwork panels integrated into the main timber frame which feature ribboned garlands and the ‘CSF’ monogram. These features became standard elements of the shelters built under Clarke’s direction, following his appointment alongside Aitchison as joint Honorary Architect to the Fund in 1884.

The building of new shelters continued throughout the 1880s, though started to tail off towards the end of the century. Between 1890 and 1911 the focus shifted towards upkeep and repair of existing cabins and consequently only seven new structures were built over the period, this taking the operating number to its peak of 47. Owing to the relatively small number of new shelters being built around the turn of the century, there was no attempt to make anything more than modest alterations to the 1882 prototype, despite Clarke being succeeded as the Honorary architect in 1898 by M Starmer Hack. The Grosvenor Garden example, which was originally erected on Hobart Place in 1906, reflects the longevity of the ‘ornamental’ model. The only notable modifications to the 1882 form being the simplified louvered boarding gablets (replacing decorative motifs) and some minor modifications to the proportions and detailing of the roof design.

Over the course of the C20 many of the London cabmen’s shelters were lost. Owing to their positions in relatively exposed sites, generally on or in the middle of key thoroughfares, the shelters were prone to damage from traffic and vandalism and also vulnerable to the impacts of metropolitan road-widening schemes. Of the 61 shelters built between 1875 and 1950 only 13 now survive. Included in this number is the Grosvenor Gardens shelter, which continues to serve London’s taxi cab drivers and is still overseen and maintained by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. Over the last 30 years the internal fixtures and fittings have been largely modernised.

Reasons for Listing

The Cabmen’s Shelter, Grosvenor Gardens, of 1906, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* 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 to an early C20 variant of Maximilian Clarke’s 1882 cabin design.

Historic interest:
* as a rare and well-preserved relic of London’s hansom cab trade.

Group value:
* with the adjacent public gardens and its Grade II* Rifle Brigade War Memorial and Grade II gates and gate piers, along with the terraces at 1-21 and 2-34 Grosvenor Gardens, which are listed Grade II.

External Links

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