The Secret Green Shelters That Protect London's Cabbies

Dotted around London are 13 tiny green sheds that are reserved only for those who have passed “The Knowledge” test — memorizing every street, landmark, and route in London. The idea for the shelters came in the late 19th century, when The Globe newspaper editor George Armstrong was unable to hail a taxi during a blizzard because the drivers — who drove horse-drawn carriages then — were huddled in a nearby pub. Armstrong teamed up with a group of philanthropists to find a way to keep the drivers out of the pub, but also sheltered from the elements. The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was established in 1875, and the first shed was built that year. In fact, the fund still operates today. Each hut was built no bigger than a horse and carriage, in line with Metropolitan Police rules. They provided shelter and sustenance for drivers, with strict rules against swearing, gambling and drinking alcohol. Then came World War I, and the sheds, which were unused and unprotected, suffered rot and ruin. Now, just 13 remain, with 10 in operation. The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund is responsible for upkeep and maintenance, issuing annual licenses to those who run them. Today, many of the sheds have turned into diners, serving breakfast, sandwiches, and hot drinks. Non-cabbies are allowed to sit inside, as long as they aren’t taking up space the cabbies would need.