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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Laws regulating hackney carriages

Since the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714) there have apparently been 37 Acts of Parliament regulating hackney carriages which are still supposedly in force for taxis today.

1. It is illegal to hail a cab whilst it is in motion. You should wait at the "place appointed." The taxi rank should also provide a water trough for the horses to have a drink.

2.The cab driver is supposed to ask you if you have any "notifiable diseases such as smallpox or the plague." As carrying sufferers is illegal, he should refuse any who look infected because if you die on the journey he will be committing the offence of carrying a corpse.

3. The law requiring a taxi to carry a bale of straw on top to feed the horse was only repealed in 1976, as was the requirement to have a nosebag of oats on the side of the cab. The stricture to have "sufficient foodstuffs for the horse" was in modern times interpreted as having enough diesel or petrol.

4. A cabby who drives too slowly could be convicted of "loitering" and one who drove too fast of "furious driving." It is expressly forbidden for a driver to make "insulting gestures."

5. Because it was illegal to leave a hackney carriage unattended on the highway, the driver was permitted to urinate in public provided that he was by the rear wheel of the vehicle with his right hand place upon it.

With thanks to "The Strange Laws of Old England" by Nigel Cawthorne.


Kate Hardy said...

Fascinating, Nicola.

One of my great-grandfathers was a Hansom cab driver, but I've yet to research that side of the family fully. (I need to grill an aunt or two!)

Jan Jones said...

I know Kate's been stressed lately, but I really don't think she should be grilling aunts!

Love the rules, Nicola. You'd never get one in London if you didn't flag 'em down on the hoof.

And presumably rule 2 is why they all say "Y'awlright there?" as you clamber in after an RNA party..."

NinaP said...

Oh my, urinating in the street! Ok, that's just...

But thanks for the warning, Nicola. I'll be sure to pass it along to my 21st century heroine. The poor thing is stuck in Regency London.


Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Jan, yes I worry about Kate's grillings too! It would be hopeless waiting around for a cab rather than flagging one down, wouldn't it. I love the thought that after an RNA Party we all look as though we might have either smallpox or the plague! And presumably the urinating thing is one of those little details you really *don't* want to include in a story for verisimilitude!