‘All dolled up’

This cute green cab shelter at the north west corner of Russell Square is one of 13 (out of an original 61) that still survive in London. They were instigated by a philanthropic group in 1875 to provide horse-drawn cab drivers with a place to shelter in bad weather and have something to eat and drink. There was also an ulterior motive, which was to discourage them from waiting in pubs and then driving horse and carriage drunk! The shelters are still used by black cab drivers today – this one also serves members of the public but only taxi drivers can go inside.

The attractive flat fronted houses behind date from the early 1800s, designed by James Burton and originally built with plain white stucco frontages. When the Hotel Russell opened in 1897 – an extravaganza of terracotta and marble on the north east side of the square – perhaps it was thought that the surrounding houses looked too plain. So Charles Fitzroy Doll, the architect of the hotel, was asked to embellish many of the original terraces surrounding the square with terracotta to match. And that is said to be the origin of the term ‘all dolled up’.