The Opening of the Cabman's Shelters

Transcribed from the Hampshire Telegraph, 24th April 1876

The four shelters for cabmen erected in this borough during the past few weeks were formally opened yesterday in the presence of large numbers of persons. The proceedings were of a somewhat novel character. The Mayor (W. Pink Esq.), Sir Frederick Fitzwygram, Bart., Messrs. E. Emanuel, A. Nance, Sen., A. Nance, Juu, R.J. Murrell, W. Payne, Fred Feltham, E.G. Holbrook, and several other gentlemen interested in the movement, first proceeded to the rest provided by the subscriptions of the inhabitants, and placed on the Common Hard, Portsea, where a goodly number of persons had assembled.
The party entered and inspected the shelter, which was prettily decorated with choice pot flowers provided by the cabmen themselves, and having done so took their seats round the table, which was laden with champagne and other good things. The Mayor subsequently appeared on the step of the shelter and declared it open. He went on to say that the gentlemen who had taken an interest in getting up these shelters were entitled to the gratitude of the cabmen and to the thanks of the inhabitants at large. The ceremony of that morning was a very interesting one, and he trusted the shelters would prove of great service to those for whom they were erected.
He, as Mayor, publicly thanked those who had carried the movement through to such a successful issue, and also the subscribers for their kindness. He was exceedingly pleased to find that the men appreciated what had been done for them by decorating the shelter with such beautiful flowers, and he trusted they would find it a source of great comfort and convenience. He proposed a formal vote of thanks to all who had taken part in providing the shelter, and assured those present that the duty he was then engaged in performing was one of the most gratifying he had been engaged in during his term in office. (Applause).
Sir F. Fitzwygram, Bart., seconded the vote of thanks. The movement for providing these shelters for cabmen was one which deserved the support and encouragement of all. He had contributed towards the movement because he believed it would tend to promote the convenience and comfort, and increase the respectability, of a large class of public servants. He had found cab drivers civil, obliging, and respectable as a class, and he had much pleasure in doing all he could to advance their interests. (Hear, Hear). The votes of thanks were unanimously carried.
Mr. E.G. Holbrook, who with Mr. Fred. Feltham started the movement in Portsmouth and undertook the onerous position of honorary secretaries, acknowledged the compliment. Thier labour had been a labour of love. He trusted the public would provide the necessary assistance to enable them to support the rests now that they had been provided.
An imposing procession was then formed, the Mayor, Sir Frederick Fitzwygram, and the Honorary Secretaries heading it in a handsome carriage drawn by a pair of greys. This was followed by a number of gentlemen in private and public carriages, drawn by pairs of horses, the rear being brought up by a long line of cabs. The appearance of the whole of the cattle, vehicles and harness did credit to the borough, and elicited encomiums from the numerous spectators along the route, from Common Hard to Southsea Beach, where the shelter given by Mr. Alderman Emanuel is situated.
The horses were dressed with many coloured rosettes, the whips were adorned with streamers, and the cab-drivers themselves were got up "regardless of expense" for the occasion, which they evidently intended should be made as festive as possible. All wore huge rosettes, and many were decorated with "Button Holes" composed of really choice flowers, and about the size of ordinary nosegays; white hats were freely used; and altogether, the Portsmouth cab-drivers strove to show, and succeeded in showing, that they could command the attention of the general public. Their wives and families are evidently favourable to the movement, for the vehicles were well filled with future cab-drivers and their maternal relatives.
"The Emanuel Shelter" is formed of the deckhouse of the Serapis which was removed to make room for the more elaborate one erected for the Prince of Wales. It is strongly constructed of toak (sic), and will doubtless last a great number of years. Mr. Alderman Emanuel, in the course of a humorous speech, declared the shelter open. He was exceedingly glad to see such a number of cabmen present at the opening of the shelters, as it showed that they took an interest in what was being done for them.
In the present day the comfort and convenience of the classes, commonly termed the lower classes, were being attended to far more than in past times, by those of the other classes, and he trusted that would continue to be the case in the future. He spoke in the highest terms of the manner in which Messrs. E.G. Holbrook and Fred. Feltham had exerted themselves, in order to bring the cabmen's shelter movement to a successful issue, and trusted they would be enabled to raise sufficient funds to establish more shelters, and particularly one for the Lion Gate road stand. He trusted that after the cabmen had been looked after, an effort would be made to afford some kind of shelter for the horses by the erection of sheds, or something of that kind.
He advised the cabmen to strive hard to keep their horses, vehicles, and harness in proper order, and held the Brighton vehicles up to them as a pattern. Let them always demand their full fare and no more, but they might never object to take an extra shilling if offered to them. Having briefly urged them to study always to be civil and clean in their appearance, he declared the rest open.
The Mayor proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Alderman Emanuel for his kindness in presenting the shelter, and, in the course of his observations, said the inhabitants were very much indebted to him, not merely for his present to the cabmen, but for his efforts to promote the interests of the borough generally. He dwelt on thefact that the construction of the beautiful esplanade they were then facing was principally due to his exertions, and that the rise of Southsea had been brought about in no small degree through his efforts. Mr. W. Payne seconded the vote of thanks, which was duly acknowledged.
The procession then re-formed, and proceeded to the shelter given by Sir F. Fitzwygram, and placed on the stand opposite the "Castle" Hotel. The interior was decorated by a large number of flowering plants and some pretty pictures. The table was spread with champagne and other wines, and Sir Frederick's health was cordially proposed by the Mayor, and duly responded to. Sir Frederick subsequently declared the shelter open. He said the movement of which this was a part, was commenced some years ago in other provincial towns and then gradually got to London. Although perhaps, the movement was somewhat late in the day for Portsmouth, yet those who were engaged in it had carried it through with very great success, and he trusted they would be enabled to provide the two or three other shelters which were so much needed. He dwelt on the importance of keeping the horses well looked after and protected, and trusted something would soon be done in this direction. He undertook to keep the "Fitzwygram Shelter" in flowers throughout the year. The Mayor proposed a vote of thanks to Sir Frederick, which was seconded by Mr. G. Bond, of the "Castle" Hotel who trusted the establishment of the shelter would be the means of keeping the men out of the public-house. (A laugh).
Sir Frederick having acknowledged the compliment, the procession again formed, and proceeded to the shelter opposite the Landport Police Station, given by Mr. Alderman Nance. Here a similar ceremony was gone through, Mr. Nance declaring the shelter open. The Mayor proposed, and Mr. Ald. R.E. Davies seconded, a vote of thanks to Mr. Nance, for his kindness in presenting the shelter; and Mr. Nance responded.
Sir Frederick Fitzwygram proposed a vote of thanks to the honorary secretaries; and Messrs. Holbrook and Fred. Feltham each acknowledged the compliment in a few well-chosen remarks, and pleaded hard for subscriptions to the extent of 200l, to enable them to complete their work by placing a shelter in Edinburgh Road and another in Clarendon Road, Southsea. The immediate vicinities of all the shelters were profusely decorated with flags kindly lent by Mr Groom of Broad-street, Portsmouth.
Hampshire Telegraph
The tone of this article and indeed the very notion of cabmen's shelters seems quite out of touch with the realities of 1876 Portsmouth which was at that time experiencing an explosion of public transport in the form of horse tram services. The first statutory tramway in the country was opened in 1865 on a route between the town station and Clarence Pier but it was by no means the first to provide a system of public transport. This possibly dates back to 1840, but by 1857 there were services across the whole of Portsmouth, Portsea, Landport and Southsea. The cabmen's future must have looked a little bleak once the celebration of the openings were over. In one way the service operated by the cabmen must have re-inforced the class divide as only the wealthy were likely to have used them when the trams were charging a few pence per journey.
It is worth noting that, apart from this report in the Hampshire Telegraph, no other record of the event has surfaced. William Gates does not mention it and it doesn't appear in the popular "Records of the Corporation". Further, the shelters do not appear on any maps of the period. One wonders what was on the mind of Andrew Nance Jnr. as he watched these events, having been deeply involved in the design of the new tramways. Perhaps, in line with the tone of the article he was simply bemused.
Tim Backhouse