The history of the Black Cab Taxi

The iconic black taxi has ferried millions of passengers in Manchester itself and over 40 countries around the globe, but did you know that the first motorised taxis were electric? Yes, they were.

Black cab taxis have existed for over 300 years, and within that time, they have been an important image of Manchester as the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben and the Union flag are a compelling image of London. The black cab taxis are the first thing most first time tourists in Manchester notice and possibly, the last thing they see.

If you are a movie enthusiast, you already know that they are the most fertile vehicles in TV shows and films in various parts of the world. The TX4 model has already starred in over 5,000 films, but highly recognisable in the Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes and the James Bond.

The black cab replacement will be different to the cars that preceded it. Even though the most recent model is a diesel car made to paint a picture of the classic black taxis appearance, the next models will be hybrids and will ditch the retroactive appearance in favour of new more advanced appearance.

A brief history of the black cab taxis in Manchester

Initially, people referred to taxis as hackneys. The term derived from the Norman French word ‘hacquenee,’ referring to horses that were available for hire, has persisted with most individuals referring to the traditional black taxis in the UK as the ‘hackney cabs.’

In mid-1600s people witnessed the Hackney coaches for the first time in streets of London. At that point, it was considered expensive to buy and maintain a coach and the horses needed to pull it. To offset the expense, moneyed coach owners hired the coaches out to gentry’s members for use.

Owners had to replace the coaches as fast as they aged and would sell the second-hand models to the less well-off merchants and in-keepers, which used them in transporting patrons and customers for a cost. Unluckily, the first taxis fast gained a reputation for poor quality and excessive prices. To counter that, coachmen started wearing a particular uniform and charged an accurate price per every journey.

In 1654, the parliament passed the first regulatory bill for taxis, the Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the Places Adjacent in response to irregularities and inconveniences of coach drivers within central London areas.

By the year 1760, the number of licensed taxis had highly increased and people referred to coaches as “hackney hell-carts” due to their drivers’ behavior and the coaches’ sketchy quality.

Technological advancements led to introduction of two-wheeled cabriolet (a term used to describe vehicles with convertible roofs) carriage from France in 1800s. Cabriolet and hansom (a later model), were quicker and agiler than the earlier four-wheeled coaches. What’s more, they were pulled by only one horse, a feature that highly reduced congestion.

What about the electric taxis?

The first ever motorised taxis in London were witnessed in 1897, and actually, the first motor cabriolets were electrically powered. People nicknamed them “Berseys” after their developer Walter C. Bersey. Within the first year, around 50 of the taxis were at work in London. However, by 1900 they were all gone due to their unreliable and expensive nature.

Three years later, people in London witnessed the first petrol taxis imported from France. Around 1906, the carriages were officially named taxis after fitting of taximeters to show fares was made compulsory.

Over the next few years, trading of taxis exploded in popularity but several factors like cab drivers’ industrial action in 1911, 1913 fuel shortages and the outbreak of First and Second World Wars highly affected the trade. Most of the drivers had to leave their business to serve in the wars. After the wars, the trade increased again with the Austin taxi introduction in 1929. The Austin is the most successful taxi cab including today.

Some unique features of the black cab taxis

Different from most other taxis within Europe, black cabs had to be spacious, elegant and comfortable. The taxis can take up five individuals excluding the driver. Also, the fares highly depend on the time of the day or day of the week. They are some of the taxis to expect in Manchester.