The History of Station Taxis, Sunderland’s Oldest Cab Firm
Station Taxis is a Sunderland icon. Although there are many private hire firms around the city, we understand Station to be the oldest and “central” taxi firm, making it a part of local culture. Its white cabs and George Stephenson’s rocket logo give it an astute branding.
But where exactly did it come from? For obvious reasons, the concept of “taxis” is something that has only emerged within the last 100 years or so, because once upon a time there were no cars to speak of. Before the age of engines, including trains, we travelled everywhere by horse and cart, and if we couldn’t afford that, foot.
And ironically, it was by horse and cart, that the company which would evolve into “Station Taxis” was born. In the year 1900, a man called Monkhouse Graham, or better known as “Yorkie” set up his own “taxi”, which was in fact a horse pulled cart. But the world was changing, in the coming years, horse and carts went out of fashion as a revolutionary new vehicle came into the world, known as “the car”.
Using the proceeds from his horse and cart business, Yorkie bought the iconic Ford “T” motor in 1922, Sunderland’s real taxi was born, and he changed the name of the company to ““Sunderland Carriage and Motor Company”. By 1934, those horse drawn carriages were no longer needed, and as Sunderland’s population boomed and the town grew, so did the demand for taxis.
By the end of World War II, Motorcars were evolving from a luxury into an everyday necessity and ownership grew. Older modes of transport, such as the Sunderland tram system (opened in 1900) were also in decline, buses and taxis were on the ascendency. Yorkie’s Taxi firm subsequently based itself at the North End of the Station on High Street West, which proved to be immensely successful, a tradition which has not changed today.
In 1970, Monkhouse Graham passed away, having devoted 70 years of his life to shaping this pioneer business. Handing the firm to his son, it was now known as “Graham’s taxis“. However the following year in 1971, Graham’s taxi’s merged with a number of independent drivers and set itself up under the new name “Station Taxis”, and subsequently based itself at the South Sunderland Railway Station entrance on Athenaeum Street, where its headquarters constituted a small wooden shed.
Over the coming decades, Station Taxis modernised its business, adapting new technology as it became available. From a traditional radio signal system, its booking model became computerized by the 1990s. By the 21st century, Station Taxis were utilizing AI, an app and the internet to faster facilitate bookings, and also adapting card machines and digital payments. By 2022, it was then announced that the firm would be moving towards its first electric cars, embracing the green revolution.
Nowadays, Station taxis employs over 200 drivers. A central taxi firm in many ways becomes a “icon” of the city that it operates in. While we have the Black Hackney Carriages of London and the yellow Cabbies of New York City, we likewise have the white station taxis of Sunderland, which serve our community.