Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hackney Carriages


We are always reading about people driving around London in a Hackney carriage so I thought it might be interesting to look at them a little more closely.

Of course we are all aware of the licences in taxis or cabs as we call them today. In the Regency they were hackney carriages or coaches. And they were equally rule-bound, believe it or not.

An Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the places adjacent" was approved by Parliament in 1654, to remedy what it described as the "many Inconveniences [that] do daily arise by reason of the late increase and great irregularity of Hackney Coaches and Hackney Coachmen in London, Westminster and the places thereabouts". The first hackney-carriage licences date from 1662.

Over the years rules and regulations were added as were the number of licences. By my count there were 1000 licenced Hackney coaches and another 500 chariots supplemented by an unknown number of one-horse chaises. However I'm not known for my math, so if this number is important to you I suggest you go to original sources.

By the way, a London Hackney or Cab licence is a highly sought after item, even today.


Now where was I. Yes rules and Regs. They covered such things as the number of passengers according the the size of the hackney (always with the allowance of one servant riding outside), the size of the horses (not below 14 hands. There were fines for abusive language (I wouldn't mind seeing some of those dished out in shopping malls) and fines for extortion - as in extortionate fares.

I thought this rules rather interesting!

Obligation to go.
And they shall be compellable on every day, and at any hour of the night, although they may have been out twelve hours, to go with any person or persons desirous of hiring them, and no more than the regular fare allowed on such occasions.



It appears that our forefathers were just as careless with their umbrellas and other property as we are on trains today, for this following rule also appears.

How Property Left in Coaches or Chariots is to be disposed of.
The drivers of hackney coaches, wherein any property is left, shalt carry each property, in the state in which it was found, within four days, to the Hackney-coach office, and deposit the same with one of the clerks, under a penalty not exceeding 20l.


I have not included all of the detail but you can find it in New Picture of London, Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand; by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819 along with a list of major Hackney Stands throughout London.

Until next time, Happy Rambles