Sherlock Holmes Museum Campaigns To Drive Hansom Cab In Royal Parks

By Caroline Lewis | 07 November 2007
photo of a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes in a horse drawn cab

Mr Vasily Livanov OBE - The Russian Sherlock Holmes - takes a trip around London's attractions in the original Victorian hansom cab hired from the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Courtesy the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Museum staff are campaigning for the right to drive an original working hansom cab through the capital’s Royal Parks.

The 1899 horse drawn Forder cab belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum of Baker Street, and is rolled out for VIPs and private hire. However, it may take not take the important visitors past the gates of Buckingham Palace as regulations prevent it from entering any Royal Parks.

John Aidiniantz, Assistant Curator at the Sherlock Holmes Museum has now taken his campaign to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon James Purnell MP. The drastic measure comes after requests sent to the Head of Policy at Royal Parks have been flatly turned down.

“It’s a Royal Park Regulation from 1977,” explained Mr Aidiniantz, “essentially to prevent people from driving vehicles along park roads that are constructed or adapted for trade or business.”

“And quite right, it’s a hansom cab, it was built for the purpose of business, serving as the Victorian taxi carrying two passengers with the driver behind. But that’s not what we use it as.”

The striking horse drawn vehicle has carried famous actors such as Dustin Hoffman and the wives of state leaders. In January 2007 it carried Vasily Livanov OBE, the ‘Russian Sherlock Holmes’, and may also be used for charitable purposes.

“But we always have to stop at the park gates and ask passengers to walk – it’s difficult to explain to them why we have to do that,” said Mr Aidiniantz.

The gripe that he has is that licensed taxi cabs and tourist coaches, which both carry advertising, are permitted by special dispensation to drive through the parks.

photo of a horse drawn hansom cab

The hansom cab dates to 1899. Courtesy the Sherlock Holmes Museum

The main reason cited by the Head of Policy for the Royal Parks, Mr David McLaren, for their refusal to permit the hansom cab is the restriction on advertising in the parks, and “practical challenges to do with traffic management”. A letter in response to Mr Aidiniantz said that his proposal breaches the regulations over advertising.

Mr Aidiniantz feels that it is unfair to allow taxis and coaches that carry advertising, but not the hansom cab, which carries discreet advertising that is impractical to cover up. Proceeds from sponsorship go towards the running of the independent museum.

“You want to carry out a commercial activity in the Royal Parks,” said Mr McLaren in the exchange of correspondence between the two. “You have sought permission and this has been refused. The Royal Parks are unique and special places and this organisation seeks to limit the number of commercial activities it permits.”

“Under the Regulations, taxis have long been permitted in the Parks. As you note, some do carry advertising and specific permission has been granted by Ministers for this. We also issue a limited number of individual licenses for coaches who bring people to visit the parks.”

In later correspondence, Mr McLaren explained that taxis are vehicles licensed under the Metropolitan Carriage Act of 1869, and to apply to be licensed as a taxi Mr Aidiniantz would need to apply to the Public Carriage Office.

Mr Aidiniantz insists that he does not want to have the hansom cab licensed as a taxi, but would like to be permitted into the parks as are the list of vehicles carrying advertising which are exempt from the ban under a Schedule in the Regulations.

He argues that tourists like to see such vehicles, and going through the parks makes a welcome break for the animals, which are otherwise forced to stay on London’s busy roads.

“The Queen’s known as a horse lover,” said Mr Aidiniantz. “Do I have to take this all the way to Her Majesty?”

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