The cabmen’s shelter

The Broad Street cabstand

Many old postcards of Broad Street show this cabmen’s shelter, which stood roughly opposite Turl Street, where Balliol and Trinity Colleges meet. The Oxford Chronicle of 25 July 1885 has this report on the new shelter:

By the praiseworthy efforts of Miss Acland a Cabmen’s Shelter was on Monday opened in Broad Street. The building is a very comfortable place. It was built by Messrs Bart, Axtell & Co. at a cost of about £120. Under the seats are lockers, in which, through the kindness of Miss Acland and friends, a number of books have been placed, and there is also a substantial tea and dinner service.

Among those present at the opening, besides the cabmen, were Sir Henry Acland, K.C.B., the Rector of Exeter, Miss Acland, Miss Lightfoot, Mrs Macdonald, Mr W.G. Ward, and Mr Norton, Secretary. — Miss Acland, in opening the shelter, said she hoped the men who used it would keep the rules which have been agreed upon. They were very few and very simple, and she expressed a hope that they would find the shelter a great comfort. — The Secretary read the rules, and said he had no doubt they would be observed. He supposed they knew they were indebted to Miss Acland for the benefit — (applause) — and she had done it all. He was sure they would appreciate it and that it would lead to sobriety and comfort. — A cabman returned thanks to Miss Acland. — Sir Henry Acland, K.C.B., said his daughter had received very gratefully their thanks. It had been truly said that the shelter which had been provided for their comfort was entirely due to Miss Acland, who by her perseverance and industry had provided the money necessary, for he knew she had written three or four hundred letters for them. He thought an object of that kind well deserved any amount of labour connected with it. It was true it was a small thing, but in England some of the best and most valuable institutions had been small. It was amongst the industrial classes more particularly that they looked for examples of upright family life. There was one other thing, although it might be of too domestic a character. In setting this object on foot Miss Acland had followed in the footsteps of her mother, whose memory had been perpetuated by the goodness of those who loved her, by the Institution of the District Home for Nurses. Her daughter had been carrying on a portion of work which she used to do. He hoped that institution would be taken care of for her sake. (Applause.) On the table they would find some of the good things, and he hoped they would make use of them. There were also good books in the lockers, — he did not mean only religious books, but there were some good books on every subject. Miss Acland had subscribed for a daily paper, and he hoped they would make better use of it than some people did. He hoped from it they would acquire moderate views, and that they would not be violent for or against any mere party, but be thoughtful citizens looking to the well being and happiness of all. (Applause.) The proceedings then terminated.

Sarah Angelina Acland (1849–1830) who campaigned for the cabstand was a pioneer of colour photography. She was the daughter of Sir Henry Acland, the Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and lived at 40–41 Broad Street from 1847 to 1900 with her parents and six brothers (becoming their housekeeper after the death of her mother in 1878). She would frequently have walked past the waiting cabmen on her way to the Oxford School of Art in the Taylorian.

Shelter from colour postcard

Cabmen’s shelter

The first Broad Street shelter (above) closely resembled the shelter that had been erected nine years earlier in St Giles’ Street. It had wheels and could be moved about, but seemed to have remained in this position opposite Turl Street.

The threat in 1912 of gardens replacing this cabstand and shelter

The builder Thomas Kingerlee, who was Mayor of Oxford in 1911/12, had the idea of creating a two gardens in the centre of Broad Street, which would entail the removal of the cabstand and the cabmen's shelter, and the Oxford Corporation decided to go ahead with it. Local traders and the colleges as well as the displaced cabmen were against it, and the idea was soon abandoned. It made the national news, and the following article was published in the Observer of Sunday 5 May 1912:


Oxford undergraduates had a merry day yesterday at the expense of the Corporation Highway Committee.

The Committee had proposed to plant two gardens in the centre of Broad-street — a scheme which would have necessitated the removal of the cab stand opposite Trinity College. Owing to protests from the colleges and business people, the Council ordered the work of digging up the roadway to be suspended.

The undergraduates promptly converted the street into a flower garden with palms, marguerites, lilies, pot plants, bluebells and evergreens which florists and private persons lent for the occasion. Cards were placed amongst the flowers stating:—



and one card attached to a plant explained that it was a “rare specimen from the North Pole.” A band was engaged, and in the presence of a large crowd of persons played “Beautiful Garden of Roses” and “Auld Lang Syne.” The cabmen joined in the chorus.

Two days later the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 8 May 1912 (p. 14) published a photograph showing the protest by Oxford's cabmen against the idea of a Cabmen's Garden.

It is uncertain whether the original cabmen's shelter was demolished in the process. Certainly a cabmen's shelter survived here, and on 16 March 1921 (p. 11) Jackson’s Oxford Journal published a photograph of children on the roof of the Broad Street cabmen’s shelter during a royal visit to Oxford.

The detail below from a postcard dating from c.1924 shows just one horse and carriage at the cab stand, and about four motor cars.

Cabstand, c.1924

The cabmen's shelter was removed in 1928 to make parking space for private cars.

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