The History of the Iconic Black Cab

The History of the Iconic Black Cab

These days, people often use ride-sharing apps like Uber when they need a lift somewhere, but there remains something special about using an iconic black London cab and they have played an important role in UK history. Black cabs, or Hackney carriages, are as iconic as phonebooks, double-decker buses and postboxes, so why are they so important?


The origins of black cabs date back to the middle of the 1600s in the capital when they were simply referred to as hackneys. This does not refer to the London borough as many expect, but actually from the Norman French word “hacquenee”, which is a horse that could be hired. In these times, horse-drawn carriages were available for hire as a way for people to get around.

Getting Organised

These were not that reliable and a negative reputation soon quickly formed (which still remains somewhat to this day), but things did improve once Captain J. Bailey formed the first formal organization for taxi drivers and implemented new rules, such as the use of uniforms and charging a uniform fair. This was soon copied by other coach owners and taxi services in London took off.

Improving Vehicles

Over time, the vehicles and regulations improved so that taxis became the most popular way for people to get around the city. Another major stride was made towards the end of the 1800s when the first taximeter was invented so that people would be charged a fair fee and these became electric by the 1980s.

Black Cabs

So, why exactly are the cabs famous for being black particularly when phone boxes and postboxes are red? Interestingly, taxis used to be all kinds of colours in the UK up until 1948 when the Austin FX3 became the vehicle of choice. The FX3 was produced in black as standard and customers would have to pay more for different colours, so those buying fleets of the vehicle would simply choose the cheapest option and these soon become synonymous with cabs.

Becoming a Cab Driver

For those that want to become a black cab driver, you need to apply for a taxi driver license and pass the world-famous Knowledge test. In addition to the Knowledge, cab drivers need to be friendly, approachable and excellent drivers and you will also want to find a high-quality black cab for sale online.

Black cabs are quintessentially British and have played a fascinating role in UK history. Despite the rise of apps like Uber, there is still something special and prestigious about hackney carriages and it remains a thriving industry.


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