The Cabmens Shelters: Inside London's secret 'green sheds' is part of BBC's Stop and Start, which is devoted to reports about places and ways of life which are slowly disappearing.
The Cabmens Shelters deals with London's green sheds, an incongruous sight on the busy streets of London, whose wooden structures have been part of the capital since 1875 acting as a refuge for taxi drivers to eat, drink and take shelter from the weather.
Watch the video and answer the questions below about it.
The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.
1 What benefit do the green sheds bring to taxi drivers?
2 What was the original use of the green sheds?
3 How many of them were there after twenty-five years?
4 What was the use of the black rail outside the shelter?
5 Who is allowed to use the shelter these days?
6 Why did the drivers of an Austin London taxi have to stand harsh conditions?
To check your answers, you can read the transcript below.
Just beyond the gate of Hyde Park, to the right of the road, stands a cabman shelter.
Any sauce on the sandwich?
Just Ketchup, please.
The air was heavy with conflicting scents, fried onion seemed to be having the best of the struggle for the moment, though plug tobacco competed gallantly. A keen, analytical nose might also have detected the presence of steak and coffee.
Sausage and sandwich, please.
“Cab”, (Cabshelter sauce) please.
Driving a taxi is a very lonely job. You meet lots of people but you never get to know them. It’s a place to come and meet your mates, it’s a place to come and socialize, chew the fat, grab a cup of tea and a sandwich.
Green shed is a good description. They were devised in the middle of the 19th century as a means of providing shelter for horse cabmen. Remember the horse cabman was stuck out in the open in all weathers. A newspaper proprietor, George Armstrong, set up the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund and the first one was in Acacia Road, just around the corner from this one, and within twenty-five years there were sixty of them in London.
This is one of the thirteen surviving cabmen’s shelters. They are all this particular size and shape, so they should take up no more space than a four-wheeled horse cab. You have your entrance in the side, ventilator on the roof, and you see this black rail running around the outside, that was for tying your horse to. Originally they were designed for cab drivers alone but these days they do serve the general public.
Egg and bacon bagetti.
Egg and bacon.
You’ve got to remember a lot of them work closely on their own so they come here to meet up, to ask for advice, to also help with some problems. A lot of them come here just to unwind from the day’s work. Some people come here to ask advice from my mum, you know, like she’s a new aunt for the cab drivers.
You know, it gives you the opportunity just to let your hair down a bit from a hard day’s gruel in the heavy conditions of polluted London traffic.
There is a little bit of community in it, you get to know a few people and it brightens up the day.
It’s more like a little family that erm people have problems if someone is ill, maybe there is a little collection for them.
You can park up and then chat whatever it is, it’s nice yeah.
Thank you, dear.
This is an Austin London taxi from 1934. These cabs were in service up until about 1952, so even then there was a need for some real shelter for a cabman. Just the windscreen, no window in the driver’s door, open platform, and you get the wind and the rain and the snow. You could sometimes literally freeze to death in the cab on a cold winter’s night.
What we have inside these shelters… are lots of drivers who not only have knowledge but who bear a witness to the city on a daily basis. Their knowledge, therefore, is contained within these tiny spaces that you may not even think there’s anybody inside, it’s absolutely a mint.
I’ve been commissioned as part of a one-year project to produce work in response to the history and living history of these shelters.
The center of the local community here I suppose, like a focal point.
Look at that! Lovely! Cheers, Mike!