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Here are some Russell stories and accounts over the years:

Reader Feedback - Russell Name Meaning

As a Russell I enjoy browsing through your webpage that is full of interesting information on Russell history and its link to Kingston Russell in Dorset. 

I was also most interested to read in your web page that the name Russell comes from the Old French rousel for "red.'  I have also read various texts that claim its origin from Rufus, Rushall, or Hrod.  Another one says that the first Russell on record was William Russel, named in the Lenton Priory Register as the son of a Ralph de Rosel from Dorset whose name is in the Winton Domesday Book.  

It looks like the name Russell could have more than one origin, although the 'Rosel' from Dorset one seems to have the advantage of official documents to back it up.  

Charles Russell (

Russells of Kingston Russell

Sir John Russel was granted the royal manor of Kingston Russell near Weymouth in Devon for his services to the King.  He had under King John been Governor of Corfe Castle and was recorded as follows in the 1211 Book of Fees:

John Russel holds Kingston for half a hide of land from the Lord King from the time of William the Bastard sometime King of England through the serjeanty of being marshal of the king's buttery (i.e. storer of wine barrels) at Christmas and at Pentecost.” 

The serjeanty changed during the minority of King Henry III to the counting of the King's chessman and storing them away after a game. 

After Sir John’s death in 1224 there followed Ralph, Sir William, Theobald, Ralph, Maurice, and Thomas. Thomas died in 1431 and Kingston Russell passed to his sisters who had married and therefore the manor was separated from the Russell family name. 

Sir William was Constable of Carisbrook castle on the Isle of Wight. He married there Katherine de Aula, heiress of the Yaverland estate which Russell descendants held.  The Kingston Russell line continued with his son Theobald.  It was long thought that this Theobald had a son named William who was an ancestor of the Russell Dukes of Bedford.  But no such son existed.

Chenies Manor

The Chenies Manor House in Buckinghamshire had been owned by the Cheyne family who were granted manorial rights there in 1180.  Sir John Cheyne built the current house around 1460.  But by 1526 it had been acquired by John Russell who became the 1st Earl of Bedford.  

The manor house was extended into a palace prior to Henry VIII’s first visit there in 1534.  John Russell had risen to the lofty heights of an Earldom under Henry VIII, despite lacking aristocratic antecedents.  Unlike Thomas Cromwell, he was able to hang on to both his head and his title and, as a consequence, his descendants became Dukes of Bedford in their turn.  

The Bedford chapel at Chenies holds monuments starting with John and his wife Anne Sapcote and continuing until Francis, the 10th Duke and his wife Adeline Marie.  The manor house remained in the possession of the Russells until 1954.

The Russells of New Bedford

It was Joseph Russell, a prosperous Quaker farmer from Dartmouth, who had acquired land along the Acushnet river and first settled in the early 1700’s in what became the town of New Bedford.   He in fact suggested the name of New Bedford as the Dukes of Bedford in England also bore the name of Russell. 

His elder son Caleb farmed, his younger son Joseph was one of the first merchants of New Bedford and many consider him the founder of the New Bedford whaling industry.  Under Joseph’s leadership the inhabitants of Bedford village became whalers and shipbuilders.  He lived a long life and died in New Bedford at the age of 85 in 1804

John Russel of Elgin and His Descendants

In 1805 John Russel, an Elgin merchant who consistently spelled his name with only one ‘l,’ rode to the new tweed mills in Galashiels.  After concluding his business there he spent a few days with a wheelwright Thomas Russell in Peebles, where he fell in love with his daughter Janet and asked for her hand. 

In marrying John Russel, Janet joined a Moray family which had farmed at Alves for several generations.  There were legendary links with the Royalist Alexander Russell of the Civil War who was said to have fled to Elgin after Marston Moor.  More prosaically, they were a branch of the Elgin Russells who had acquired Blackhall in Aberdeenshire. 

John and Janet’s son Alexander (he preferred two ‘l’s) became proprietor of the Elgin Courant, following his father’s purchase of the Courier plant in 1834.  He bought new premises for the paper on the High Street in 1840 and was to be its editor for thirty five years. 

Betty Willsher’s 2005 book A Scottish Family: The Story of Eight Generations covered these and six more generations of this family.

Russell Merchants in Limerick

By 1760, when Limerick was proclaimed an open city, the Russells had established themselves as prominent merchants there.  William Russell was recorded as a merchant on Main Street in the 1769 Limerick directory.  His vault is to be found at Limerick’s St. John’s Church of Ireland.  

Philip Russell’s vault was marked as follows: 

“Here are interred the rewards of Philip Russell.  He was born on the 6th of March 1750 and died on 24th of June 1832.  In this tomb also rest the remains of his wife Susan and his sons Francis Philip Henry Ivers and Whitecat Keane Russell.”  

He had signed the pro-Union petition circulated in Limerick after the Irish Rebellion of 1798, as had John Norris Russell.  

His first cousin John Norris Russell founded the firm of J.N. Russell and Sons in Limerick.  He started out as a corn merchant and later became a shipowner and an industrialist.  He built the Newtown Pery Mills on Russell's Quay and the Newtown Pery store adjacent to it on Henry Street.   He was described as “the most enterprising merchant Limerick ever saw.”  He died in 1859.

Henry Russell, The Irishman who Conquered the Pyrenees

Henry Russell’s love of physical contact with the mountains led to his introduction of sleeping bags into the annals of mountaineering.  His first sleeping bag was made of six sheepskins. Next he introduced shelters for climbers.  Wanting only natural items around him, he had local artisans build rock caves with iron doors on his beloved Vignemale in the Pyrenees. 

He entertained there not only other climbers, but friends from high society.  Scientists, botanists, explorers and politicians overnighted in these well appointed caves.  He ordered in a large supply of food and wine, plus liquors and cigars.  They often would have an evening round of hot wine, then climb about a half hour to the summit to see the sun set. 

His version of ecstasy was to spend the night buried in the top of his mountain with only his head exposed so he could, as he explained, “feel” and “be” the mountain. 

His last cave, called the Grotte du Paradis, was built in 1893 just 18 meters below the summit. He began to spend more and more time there, living as a hermit.  Russell made his last ascent and sleepover at his beloved mountain in 1904.  He spent his last five years writing books about his travels and died in 1909.

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