London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry
1851

Introduction of Cabs.

Introduction of Cabs.

FOR the introduction of hackney-cabriolets (a word which it now seems almost pedantic to use) we are indebted—as for the introduction of the omnibuses—to the example of the Parisians. In 1813 there were 1150 cabriolets de place upon the hackney-stands of Paris: in 1823, ten years later, there were twelve upon the hackney-stands of London, but the vested right of the hackney-coachmen was an obstacle. Messrs. Bradshaw and Rotch, however, did manage in 1823 to obtain licenses for twelve cabriolets, starting them at 8d. a mile. The number was subsequently increased to 50, and then to 100, and in less than nine years after the first cab plied in the streets of London all restriction as to their number was abolished.

The form of cab first in use was that of a hooded chaise, the leather head or hood being raised or lowered at pleasure. In wet, windy weather, however, it was found, when raised, to present so great a resistance to the progress of the horse that the head was abandoned. In these cabs the driver sat inside, the vehicle being made large enough to hold two persons and the cabman. The next kind had a detached seat for the driver alongside his fare. On the third sort the driver occupied the roof, the door opening at the back. These were called "back-door cabs." The "covered cab," carrying two inside with the driver on a box in front, was next introduced, and it was a safer conveyance, having four wheels—the preceding cabs had but two. The clarences, carrying four inside, came next; and almost at the same time with them the Hansom"s, which are always called "showfulls" by the cabmen. "Showfull," in slang, means counterfeit, and the "showfull" cabs are an infringement on Hansom"s patent. There are now no cabs in use but the two last-mentioned. A clarence built in the best manner costs from 40l. to 50l., a good horse to draw it is worth 18l. to 20l., and the harness 4l. 10s. to 5l. This is the fair price of the carriage and harness when new, and from a good shop. But second-hand cabs and harness are sold and re-sold, and are repaired or fitted up by jobbing coachmakers. Nearly all the greater cab proprietors employ a coachbuilder on their premises. A cab-horse has been purchased in Smithfield for 40s.

Some of the cabmen have their own horse and vehicle, while others, and the great majority, rent a cab and horse from the proprietor, and pay him so much a day or night, having for their remuneration all they can obtain for the amount of rent. The rent required by the most respectable masters is 14s. in the season—out of the season, the best masters expect the drivers to bring home about 9s. a-day. For this sum two good horses are found to each cab. Some of the cab proprietors, especially a class known as "contractors," or "Westminster masters," of whom a large number are Jews, make the men hiring their cabs "sign" for 16s. a-day in the season, and 12s. out of it. This system is called signing instead of agreeing, or any similar term, because the 6th & 7th Victoria provides that no sum shall be recovered from drivers "on account of the earnings of any hackney-carriage, unless under an agreement in writing, signed in presence of a competent witness." The steadiest and most trusty men in the cabdriving trade, however, refuse to sign for a stipulated sum, as in case of their not earning so much they may be compelled summarily, and with the penalties of fine and imprisonment, to pay that stipulated sum. I was informed by a highly respectable cab proprietor, that in the season 12s. 6d. a-day would be a fair sum to sign for, and 9s., or even less, out of the season. In this my informant cannot be mistaken, for he has practical experience of cab-driving, he himself often driving on an emergency. There are plenty, however, who will sign for 16s., and the consequence of this branch of the contract system is, that the men so contracting resort to any means to make their guinea. They drive swell-mobsmen, they are connected with women of the town, they pick up and prey upon drunken fellows, in collusion with these women, and resort to any knavery to make up the necessary sum. On this subject I give below the statement of an experienced proprietor.

FOR the introduction of hackney- (a word which it now seems almost pedantic to use) we are indebted—as for the introduction of the omnibuses—to the example of the Parisians. In there were upon the hackney-stands of Paris: in , years later, there were upon the hackney-stands of London, but the vested right of the hackney-coachmen was an obstacle. Messrs. Bradshaw and Rotch, however, did manage in to obtain licenses for cabriolets, starting them at a mile. The number was subsequently increased to , and then to , and in less

351

than years after the cab plied in the streets of London all restriction as to their number was abolished.

The form of cab in use was that of a hooded chaise, the leather head or hood being raised or lowered at pleasure. In wet, windy weather, however, it was found, when raised, to present so great a resistance to the progress of the horse that the head was abandoned. In these cabs the driver sat inside, the vehicle being made large enough to hold persons and the cabman. The next kind had a detached seat for the driver alongside his fare. On the sort the driver occupied the roof, the door opening at the back. These were called "back-door cabs." The "covered cab," carrying inside with the driver on a box in front, was next introduced, and it was a safer conveyance, having wheels—the preceding cabs had but . The clarences, carrying inside, came next; and almost at the same time with them the Hansom"s, which are always called "showfulls" by the cabmen. "Showfull," in slang, means counterfeit, and the "showfull" cabs are an infringement on Hansom"s patent. There are now no cabs in use but the last-mentioned. A clarence built in the best manner costs from to , a good horse to draw it is worth to , and the harness to This is the fair price of the carriage and harness when new, and from a good shop. But -hand cabs and harness are sold and re-sold, and are repaired or fitted up by jobbing coachmakers. Nearly all the greater cab proprietors employ a coachbuilder on their premises. A cab-horse has been purchased in for

Some of the cabmen have their own horse and vehicle, while others, and the great majority, rent a cab and horse from the proprietor, and pay him so much a day or night, having for their remuneration all they can obtain for the amount of rent. The rent required by the most respectable masters is in the season—out of the season, the best masters expect the drivers to bring home about a-day. For this sum good horses are found to each cab. Some of the cab proprietors, especially a class known as "contractors," or " masters," of whom a large number are Jews, make the men hiring their cabs "sign" for a-day in the season, and out of it. This system is called signing instead of agreeing, or any similar term, because the & Victoria provides that no sum shall be recovered from drivers "on account of the earnings of any hackney-carriage, unless under an agreement in writing, signed in presence of a competent witness." The steadiest and most trusty men in the cabdriving trade, however, refuse to sign for a stipulated sum, as in case of their not earning so much they may be compelled summarily, and with the penalties of fine and imprisonment, to pay that stipulated sum. I was informed by a highly respectable cab proprietor, that in the season a-day would be a fair sum to sign for, and , or even less, out of the season. In this my informant cannot be mistaken, for he has practical experience of cab-driving, he himself often driving on an emergency. There are plenty, however, who will sign for , and the consequence of this branch of the contract system is, that the men so contracting resort to any means to make their guinea. They drive swell-mobsmen, they are connected with women of the town, they pick up and prey upon drunken fellows, in collusion with these women, and resort to any knavery to make up the necessary sum. On this subject I give below the statement of an experienced proprietor.

 
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 Title Page
collapseChapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
collapseOur Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
collapseChapter III: - Street Musicians
collapseChapter IV: - Street Vocalists
collapseChapter V: - Street Artists
collapseChapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
collapseChapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
collapseChapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
collapseChapter IX: - Ballast-Men
collapseChapter X: - Lumpers
collapseChapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
collapseChapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
collapseChapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
collapseChapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
collapseChapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
collapseChapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
collapseChapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men
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