The London Cabmen’s Mission

From the website of the UCL Bloomsbury Project:

“…It was founded by Nottingham-born John Dupee in 1871 as a mission “for the moral and spiritual instruction of cabmen” (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997). Although John Dupee (was) a Baptist, it was determinedly non-sectarian.

Its first meeting was held at what was then George Street and is now North Gower Street, just north of the Euston Road, and early services were held just west of Bloomsbury, in Fitzrovia, but a fund-raising tea was held in Bloomsbury, at the Tonbridge Chapel on Euston Road (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997).

Before 1873 it had a temporary base at 43 Marchmont Street (see image), which also served as a hat shop and haberdashery run by the Dupee family (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997).

Its purpose-built Mission Hall was at no. 370 Gray’s Inn Road from 1873, and it also held evangelistic services before 1881 at the Cabinet Theatre, Liverpool Street (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997).

It subsequently acquired land near the Metropolitan railway station at King’s Cross and had a Mission Hall built on the site, at no. 370 Gray’s Inn Road, opened in 1873 (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997)

It continued to run prayer meetings, Bible classes, and more social events for cabmen and their families; there was also a journal, The Cabman, and a shelter on site serving non-alcoholic drinks, and even hot meals, to prevent cabmen taking shelter in pubs (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997)

It also provided free anniversary meals for drivers and their families, and annual outings (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997)

The shelter closed abruptly in May 1880, causing some ill-feeling; Dupee subsequently hired out the Mission Hall to other groups including the YMCA (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997)

The Mission, however, continued to operate, in 1889 opening a rest home for cabmen on the Isle of Wight, and still active until about 1910 (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21, 1997)

It was investigated by the Charity Organisation Society in the 1870s and 1880s because of apparent exaggeration in its claims of conversions, and because its congregation consisted more of local shopkeepers than of actual cabmen (David Hayes, ‘Mission and Suspicion at King’s Cross: The London Cabmen’s Mission, 1871–c. 1910,’ Camden History Review, vol. 21 (1997)

It ceased to exist around 1910, and its Mission Hall was subsequently used for a variety of commercial purposes, with the old Mission motto still visible on the side wall.

In the early 21st century it and the surrounding buildings of the ‘Lighthouse’ block were unused and in poor repair; its location on a traffic-congested intersection and above Metropolitan Railway lines made redevelopment problematic, but a planning application was granted in 2009 which would involve the demolition of no. 370 Gray’s Inn Road.”

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