Calls to find new use for rare cabmen's shelter in Ripon ahead of its restoration

The cabmen's shelter.
The cabmen's shelter.
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Only a few of them are left in the country, but Ripon’s cabmen’s shelter still stands on the Market Square after more than a century to remind us of the city's heritage, and now there are plans for its restoration.

Ripon City Council has appointed a specialist contractor to preserve the Grade II listed building, which was used by drivers of horse drawn cabs waiting for fares. The contractor is working with Harrogate Borough Council to agree to the scope of the works.

News of its restoration has created debate among residents about how the cabmen’s shelter could be better used to attract more visitors to the city, and despite concerns and speculation that it could be given a permanent indoors home after the work, Coun Andrew Williams said this is not the case, and maintained that its “rightful place” is on the Square.

All sorts of different ideas and suggestions for the future of the shelter have been put forward, including making it a visitor information point and even turning it into a pop-up cafe with outdoor seating.

Lindy Webb, who has lived in Ripon for most of her life, said: “People do come and look at it when they visit, it’s very unique and it’s a focal point - everyone knows where it is. and it’s where the ghost walks start. It is part of Ripon’s heritage and it must be preserved.”

As a volunteer at the workhouse museum, Lindy would also personally love to see the shelter being used to promote events and activities at the city’s museums.

Ripon Civic Society member Richard Taylor said the restoration and discussions about a new use for the shelter are especially timely.

He said: “Ripon Civic Society very much welcomes the city council’s appointment of a specialist contractor to refurbish the cabmen’s shelter. This is a key asset to the city centre and we look forward to it being skilfully restored.

“We are keen to work with the city council to help find a new use for the shelter which will help to ensure that it has a secure future. This is a timely project as Ripon gets ready to welcome visitors in 2018, not least to celebrate the hosting of Yorkshire Day in August.

“It is also the 50th anniversary of Ripon Civic Society when we will be looking to build on past achievements which included the original rescue of the shelter.”

The Society also succeeded in getting the cabmen’s shelter listed as a building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest by the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

History of the cabmen’s shelter:

The rare shelter was provided in 1911 through a legacy of £200 by Sarah Carter, the daughter of a former mayor of Ripon. It was a prefabricated building by Boulton and Paul, a Norwich firm which also provided huts fro Scott’s 1910-13 Antarctic expedition, In 1980 the Royal Engineers restored it and fitted it onto a wheeled chassis to allow it to be moved. By 1982, when acquired by Coun Simpson and passed on to Ripon Civic Society, the shelter had badly decayed and was restored twice. In 1999 the Society gave it back to Ripon City Council.