A visit to 8 Russell Street

Submitted by thf1977 on Sun, 07/01/2012 - 14:40

I visited London in June 2012 and included 8 Russell Street, Covent Garden in my itinerary. As many visitors to this website will know, 8 Russell Street, built in 1759/60, was from the 1760s and until his death occupied by actor and bookseller Thomas Davies who on May 16, 1763, introduced James Boswell and Dr. Johnson to each other for the first time, in those very premises.

It is frequently overlooked that about half a year earlier, the very same shop was also the place of the first meeting between Boswell and poet/playwright Oliver Goldsmith.

While most of the buildings in the Covent Garden area are of a more recent date, due to fires, WWII bomb raids, etc. this exact building has survived fairly unharmed. The actual back parlour in which the meeting took place is, however, long gone. In contrast, David Garrick's Drury Lane theatre just a bit further down the road away from Covent Garden was replaced by a new theatre in 1794 - and this was again replaced by the current building a few years later, following a massive fire. The Covent Garden market hall which dominates the nearby square today wasn't built until 1830.

In recent years, the house has been home to shifting cafées of an often very touristy nature, due to its location just about 40 metres from the Covent Garden market. A few years ago the occupant was Café Valerie - which has now moved to another address in the vicinity - and until recently there was a café named Boswell's in the location. I had hoped this was still there, and that it would be possible to go inside the building and have a look around but alas - Boswell's was recently closed and the building is now for let.

However, the buildings' past has not be forgotten, and on the otherwise classic but non-descript building is placed not just one but two blue plaques commemorating the event of Boswell and Johnson's first meeting. The one pictured above is just to the left of the entrance door.


John o keeffe (not verified)

Wed, 12/21/2016 - 04:10

I worked in boswells cafe around 1985 as a counter sales assistant,I wore a white shirt black apron and a purple dickybow.As a young good looking Irishman I was unfortunately quite shy.One night as we were tidying up preparing to close a georgeous blond that was the last person left in the cafe wanted to befriend me and communicated her wishes through manager her desire to make my aqaintance,but being shy I said no.She walked past me going out the door.Regret this,she prob.felt rejected,I was too scared.