Monday Minstrel: Facts about the London ‘Cab’

London taxis are historically and still officially known as Hackney Carriages, derived from the French word ‘hacquenee’ – a small type of horse commonly used to pull the coaches. The taxi trade took off during the reign of Elizabeth I when innkeepers and merchants bought second-hand carriages to sell journeys to the public. By 1634 London’s first taxi rank was opened on the Strand by Captain John Bailey, who requested his men wear a livery uniform and charge a certain rate to the passenger(s). A speedy two-seater ‘cabriolet’ carriage was introduced around the time of George IV’s reign and this French word is why we call them cabs to this day. London taxi drivers today are world renowned for having undertaken the ‘knowledge’ test which takes on average 2-4 years to learn and includes 320 basic routes, 25,000 streets off those basic routes, and 20,000 places of interest within a six mile radius of Charing Cross.

Irina Hutanu

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Great history, my Grandmothers maiden name is Bailey will have to see if any relation, lol. No wonder our family loves to drive. haha. I love that horses have gone from towing us in a carriage to us towing them in a carriage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes! There is a great cartoon with a horse pulling a carriage and a horse being loaded onto a horse trailer. The caption reads “”Well played horse!”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michele Lee says:

    Interesting post, Anne. I have some old family photos of ancestors in carriages. I do not know the manufacturer, but I do love the photos.

    Like

    1. anne leueen says:

      I love looking at my ancestors and seeing what they were wearing, how they did their hair, the fancy moustaches the men had, and the seriousness of their photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michele Lee says:

        I do too. So serious! It is also interesting to see family resemblances, especially when many generations separate people. No denying genes sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          Yes! Our son has an uncanny resemblance to his Great Unxle who died in WW1. Genetic influences can be quite strong.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Michele Lee says:

            That is so interesting. My nephew looks like his great great grandfather, my great. So weird!

            Liked by 2 people

  3. Taxi drivers today still go through a knowledge test before driving passengers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes they do. No need to rely on GPS!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. J.W.S. says:

    The cabs are a grand history. I heard there is talks of them going electric?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I do not know about this but it would be a good idea given the amount of traffic in London.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Anne – this prompted me to look up “hackneyed,” which I used to see frequently in old history books, newspapers, etc. but that term is now falling out of use. And it is related, a “horse suitable for ordinary riding or driving,” then later the meaning shifted to mean trite and commonplace. I haven’t seen it, but Stephen Fry did a travelogue for the BBC, driving all over the U.S. in one of those London cabs, or I guess I should say, hackneys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Amazimg. Thanks for that info.

      Like

  6. Lesley says:

    That is such interesting information, Anne, thank you. I live in the uk, but have only been to London once. They should have traffic lights for pedestrians – I was totally panicked as I got carried along by the crowds of shoppers. lol I was brought up in Glasgow, Scotland and remember the black cabs there. It was a real treat for my brother and I to get a ride in one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I like to ride in the black cabs. I’d take one of them over Uber taxis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lesley says:

        Me too!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. New York City still has horse-drawn carriages for tourists around Central Park.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I rode around Central Park in one of those carriages one evening. It was delightful.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Prior... says:

    Anne – thanks for the splash of fun history to why we call
    Them
    Cabs today!
    And I heard that in the 1800s when dickens was writing his books he saw the horse and carriage combo waning and made sure to
    Preserve some of them in his writing – I guess the pick wick papers especially
    Feature the carriages and horses to allow the guys to travel

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks for the added history of Dickens and the London Cabbies.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Prior... says:

        ☀️☀️☀️

        Like

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