London’s Cabbie Tea Huts

Russell Square Cabbie Tea HutThere are so many, many things I love about London. The most endearing sights for me, as a tealover, are these adorable little green buildings known as Cabmen’s Shelters or, as I call them, Cabbie Tea Huts. These shelters were built in Victorian times as places where a London taxi driver could grab a cup of tea and a sandwich. They serve the same purpose today.

The first shelters were built in 1875. At that time, it was illegal for a cab-driver (in his horse-drawn carriage, called a Hansom Cab) to park his cab and leave it unattended. This made it a bit difficult to get a hot meal during the day. In stepped The Earl of Shaftesbury who, with some other philanthropists, created a charity called the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. The charity built and ran these “shelters” at major cab stands to provide cab-drivers with good, wholesome food at reasonable prices.

Cabbie Tea Hut in LondonIf you have ever watched movies depicting the hussle and bussle of street traffic in Victorian England, you will appreciate the building requirement that these charming little buildings be no larger than a Hansom Cab. Though twee, they still managed to fit in a kitchen and seating for 10-13 men. 61 shelters were built between 1875 and 1914, and 13 remain, located here:

  • Russell Square
  • Chelsea Embankment – near the Albert Bridge
  • Embankment Place
  • Grosvenor Gardens – west side of north garden
  • Hanover Square – north of central garden
  • Kensington Park Road – outside numbers 8-10
  • Kensington Road – north side
  • Pont Street
  • St George’s Square, Pimlico
  • Temple Place
  • Thurloe Place, Kensington – opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Warwick Avenue – Clifton Gardens
  • Wellington Place, St John’s Wood

The next time you are in London, keep an eye out for these tiny tea houses. At most of them, anyone – not just a cabbie – can order a cup of tea or a sandwich.

Cabbie Tea Mug, 1935-1945 (Museum of London)

This 3/4-pint tea mug would have been used by a London cabbie in a Cabman’s Shelter. A cabbie would bring his own mug to the hut, where it was kept and looked after by “shelter boys.” (Image from Museum of London archives.)

 

 

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Comments

  1. Oh I hope I see one when I visit in 2013. I would love to peek inside.
    Happy New Year to you!

    • I’m sure you’ll see at least one, Marilyn. Write down the locations from my post and check them out on a map. 🙂 Happy New Year! xx

  2. Fascinating. I had never heard of these and hence have never spotted one. Looks like Kensington is good hunting ground – I will remember to keep an eye out next time I’m in London.

  3. Happy New Year , Denise!
    Very interesting post.
    I hope some day I will be able to visit London and admire its adorable, never ending sights.

  4. How twee, indeed! That is what I love about England. It is filled with the sweetest things. I love the cute little green building. And what a thoughtful gesture by the Earle! I hope I can visit one someday. Thanks for yet another wonderful bit of information, Denise! And Happy, happy New Year to you and Mr. Tea! xo

  5. Just one more reason why I love your blog so much, Denise! This was so interesting – I love the little tidbits you share about the land that I love! Blessings to you this New Year. May it be your best year ever!

  6. Dear Denise,
    Aren’t these darling? Fun to think of them being used. I love learning new things like this and will definitely look for these the next time I go. Thank you for this and all the other amusing things you show us.
    Happy New Year! Ruthie from: http://www.ladybstimefortea.blogspot.com

  7. Wow, I have seen these around but never knew what they were!

  8. Great post, Denise! These Tea Huts are fascinating! Can you suggest one or two locations where I could get a cup of tea on my next visit? Thanks, and keep up the great work on the blog!!

    • Try the one at Russell Square. Thanks for stopping by! x P.S. I’ve been having so many people contact me with the same question since writing this piece, that I am going to contact the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund and see if they can tell me which ones allow sales to the public and which ones don’t.

      • Thanks, Denise! I will make a note of the Russell Square location. Let us fellow tea-lovers know if you hear anything from the Fund. Cheers!

  9. Loved this article! Very informative. I went to King’s College London and used to walk past the Temple Cabbie Tea Hut all the time not really knowing what it was. Thanks for the info 🙂

    • Hello Henry Coffeeman Clifford, and welcome to the other side (i.e., “tea”). I have a young American friend who also attended King’s College (for awhile) and she told me the exact same thing as you about the Temple Cabbie Tea Hut – that she didn’t know what it was. She also said that it was always very busy. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Denise, thank you for this most informative and charming post! I have never seen these shelters in London. Next time I go, I will make a point of seeking them out.

  11. Fascinating to read the history of the cabbie’s hut. I visited the one at St John’s Wood this summer for a cuppa on the way to cricket at Lord’s. It was brilliant experience as I have never seen one open to the public. I have to be honest though, the tea was..mm..not so good. Builders tea, really strong – it is usually taken with milk and about four sugars..as I take tea black, it nearly took the skin off the roof of my mouth!

    • ha ha Sounds like maybe we need a Builders v. Cabbie Tea contest!! Kitty, was there a notice or something that the hut was being opened to the public?

      • There was a little hatch open at one end. I think they were taking advantage of the cricket crowds. I have never seen another one open, and get the feeling they run by different folk. I did pass a sign in Hanover Square, saying caff open..but didn’t investigate. I was on way to the lovely Postcard Teas, so builders tea just wouldn’t have done:)

        • Ahh, thanks for the info. Yes, Postcard Teas. Lovely folks there, especially Jonathan. He hand-picked half a dozen or so intriguing teas to send my son and his 2 mates so they could experiment with the world of proper loose leaf teas. 🙂

  12. I love seeing these ‘cabby shacks’ in London. There is a lovely one down in Torquay still in use. Hope you had a very Merry Christmas. Here’s to hours of happy blogging in the New Year!
    Debs X

  13. That is so very cool! I can’t believe those little buildings can fit so many people.

  14. This list will be invaluable to me later this year, Denise when I’m in London by myself for a time and with my British herbal companion later in the trip. Thanks. xo

    • Hi Nancy, lovely to hear from you again. Glad this post will be of help. I’m not sure if every shelter will serve tea to the public, though, so please bear that in mind. If I can ever catch someone at the Cabman’s Shelter Trust (I’ve been trying to ring) I am going to update this post with the locations open to the public for a cuppa.

  15. Great post, I didn’t know about these before! Will keep an eye out next time I am in London!

  16. What a delightful post and teatime tip! TY for sharing 🙂
    I tweeted @_eHope

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