Russell Street was built in the 1630s, named after the Russells, Earls and Dukes of Bedford, and it soon became popular due to it's vicinity to Drury Lane, the Covent Garden piazza and later the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden built in 1732.
In 1763 Mortimer's Universal Director of Trades listed nine residents in the street: an engraver, a music-master, a printer, a clockmaker, a distiller, a metal-button maker, two apothecaries and a grocer. On the street was also Tom's (at No. 17) and the Turk's Head (at or near No. 20), both popular coffee houses. The latter should not be confused with the Turk's Head at Gerrard Street, the regular meeting place of the literary club.
It was in No. 8, in Thomas Davies bookshop, that Boswell and Johnson met for the first time on May 16, 1763. Thomas Davies had lived there since 1760 and would continue to do so until his death in 1785.