London Taxis Through the Ages
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
The capital of the UK is a city that is steeped in history and culture, and the story of the black cabs is no different. Since the 17th Century horse-drawn Hackney Carriages to the more recent electronic cabs, the iconic black cab taxi has been a London staple for centuries.
Our brief overview can only go so far in breaking down the rich heritage, particularly when you consider that the Dutch introduced the first-ever carriages back in the 1500s. Favourited by Queen Elizabeth 1st, these were reserved only for the highest of classes. It was not until 1662, that taxi driving became a profession, with Hackney carriages legally operating from the same year. The 1700s later saw these being renamed as the Hackney Hell Cart, earning this moniker due to dangerous driving on crowded roads. By 1831, there were 1200 hackney cabs on the streets of London, and you will still hear a London black cab being referred to as this today.
Horse-drawn cabs were popular for over 200 years, but across the 20th century, the motor took the lead. In 1898, the first electronically motorised cab, the Hummingbird, hit London’s streets, in a rather dangerous fashion. It was then in 1903, with the introduction of the petrol cab that we began to see carriages less and less. In 1958, the Austin FX entered the arena, and it is here where the traditional black cab shape comes from. Remaining in usage until 1997, the FX3 and FX4 has starred in many big movies and inspired souvenir and toy makers for years.
The birth of the big minicab that we see today was around the 1990s. However, in the modern world, our priorities have changed and we are now seeing electronic high-tech versions of this British classic. If you are planning a trip to London, see the sights the traditional way and book a black cab to explore.