Second-hand coaches that had once belonged to aristocratic families were among the first carriages to tout for hire. The French hackney carriage or cab (cabriolet) first appeared in London around 1820.
The first horseless cab - the 'Bersey electric powered vehicle' - appeared in 1897 and the first internal combustion engine cab in 1903. At that time London still had more than 11,000 horse-drawn cabs. The last horse drawn cab left service in 1947.
There are now over 20,000 licensed vehicles on London's roads.
Regulation of the trade passed to the Metropolitan Police in 1850. The original Public Carriage Office (PCO) was in an annexe to New Scotland Yard called the Bungalow. It moved to 109 Lambeth Road in 1919. The PCO moved to 15 Penton Street, Islington in 1966 and then to Southwark in 2010.
After Transport for London (TfL) opened for business on 3 July 2000, day to day licensing management stayed with the PCO however, the name has since changed from the "Public Carriage Office" to "London Taxi and Private Hire".