Sunday, 31 August 2008

Russell at Beddgelert

Russell at Beddgelert
Originally uploaded by Boxbrownie3

The Hunslet built locomotive named after James Cholmeley Russell, at Beddgelert sometime in the 1920s. Currently being re-built by the Welsh Highland Railway at Portmadog.

The Final Years

At some time in the mid 1890s, Russell acquired Creag Mhor at Onich, near Fort William, Invernesshire, a substantial country house, on the North side of the entrance to Loch Leven,. This had originally been built in 1890 for the wife of the Episcopalian Bishop of Argyll. Family photographs show Russell, his family and friends relaxing in the grounds. Creag Mhor is a hotel. It was at Onich that he kept his steam yacht "Madge"

JCR seems to have been a pioneer motorist, as two of the family "snap shots" show a large open car, of a make not identified, perilously balanced on planks on the Ballachulish ferry.

Russell's human side is revealed in the family photographs. In one photograph, his wife Eleanor and daughter Margaret, are shown playing with Rolls, a very large mastiff, next to the summer house at Longdene in the 1900s. Another photograph shows a balding Russell with a moustache but no beard, at the breakfast table of Woodlands the house at Merrow, with Toddles the cat draped round one shoulder. But his real companion seems to have been a short legged mongrel terrier Mr Blackie. He features in several photographs, including one with Russell on his steam yacht, with the caption "The dog who owned his master". Mr Blackie also appears in another family picture with JCR at Onich. and a rather grizzled Mr Blackie is shown lying next to Russell, in his bath chair, in 1911, presumably at Longdene.
From 1900 onwards, Russell was winding down and the family photographs show a bearded and rather impressive looking man enjoying the fruits of his prolific life, with family and friends at Onich, where he spent a considerable amount of his time. During this time, Russell suffered a near fatal illness, and in a codicil to his will he made a number of bequests to the nurses who saw him through this traumatic period of his life.

On the 29th August 1912, Russell died of a stroke at Longdene aged 71. He remained Receiver of the NWNGR until a few months before he died. At the time he was chairman of the Barking Gas Company.

The funeral was a rather grand affair, and was fully reported in the Farnham, Haslemere and Hindhead Herald of September 7, 1912. "The funeral party left Haslemere at half past one, a special coach being attached to the ordinary train and the carriage in which the coffin was conveyed was very tastefully draped with purple hangings..."

A perusal of a contemporary Bradshaw, shows that the train was the 1.28 pm from Petersfield, arriving at Guildford at 1.58pm and going forward to Waterloo.

Many family members were present together with friends and representatives of the people Russell had met through his business dealings and socially as well as the indoor and outdoor staff from Longdene. The coffin was carried by "Mr Russell's own men" including the captain and engineer of his yacht. See later post for full report.

James Cholmeley Russell Oban Times
Russell's Obituary from The Oban Times
Russell is buried in the church yard of St. John the Evangelist, Merrow, next to his mother in law, Catherine Elizabeth Broome.

At probate, Russell's estate was valued at £166,000, which in 2004 terms would be worth in excess of £11 million.

Russell's widow Eleanor, continued to live at Longdene until sometime in 1913. She died in 1932 at the Tower House, Bletchingley, Surrey. The house had previously been owned by Hon Henry Allen Rolls, second son of the 1st Lord Llangattock, and elder brother of the Hon. Charles Rolls of Rolls Royce fame. Rolls died on 26 June 1916 at age 44 at Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. It's interesting to note that Russell's mastiff at Longdene was called Rolls.

The Tower House Bletchingley
Magdi51 (

According to a Welsh Highland Railway Company return of the time, Eleanor held 965 £1 ordinary Welsh Highland shares. These almost certainly arose from the Russell family holdings in the NWNGR and the exchange of shares when the WHR absorbed that company in 1922. The estate at probate was valued at £7,368. In today's money this would be worth some £300,000. It is not all clear what happened to James Chomeley Russell's wealth in the twenty years following his death. His widow seems to have bequeathed most of her estate to her nieces rather than her daughter Margaret.

Russell’s lasting memorial is of course the locomotive that carries his name. Ironically this was not ordered by the NWNGR, but by Gowrie Aitchison of the PB&SSR who followed Russell as Receiver to the NWNGR, and who, incidentally, also had a locomotive, ‘Gowrie’, named after him. By 1906 there was close liaison between the NWNGR with its ageing locomotives, and the PB&SSR, which had no railway, but plenty of trackbed. So in May 1906, ‘Russell’ was delivered from Hunslet's to the NWNGR at Dinas.

I wrote the original article on JCR with the research help of Dewi Thomas in 1996. It was published in the FR Heritage Journal of Winter 1996/97. At the end of 2003, prompted by the researches of Michael Bishop and the late John Keylock, I re-opened my files and through a piece of serendipity finally managed to track down the surviving granddaughter of JCR, Evelyn Pangman, who now lives in Canada. We are indebted to her for the loan of the family photographs of JCR. Thanks must also go to David Allan who has done a magnificent job of copying the late (1926-2016) Evelyn Pangman's photographs including the wonderful hand coloured vignette reproduced on the front page of the last WHRH Journal.

Together with these photographs, Evelyn's family anecdotes, the efforts of Michael Bishop in the National Archives and elsewhere and the encouragement and contributions of John Keylock, we have for the first time a more rounded view of Russell the man and his business dealings. Quite why and how Russell ever became involved with a slightly obscure Welsh railway may never be known, but he was clearly a man of some business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit. His legacy continues nearly 100 years after his death. The story is of course not yet complete and subsequent posts will cover some of the detail of his life.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The 1880s and beyond

By the 1880s Russell, was a man of some substance but unmarried. He had effective control of two railways that would eventually be connected to form the WHR, the NWNGR and the Croesor and Portmadoc Railway. Russell's many activities continued to prosper during the 1890s and at the time of his marriage on April 26th 1893, to Eleanor Catherine Broome he was able to make a marriage settlement on his bride. Eleanor was 37 and the daughter of the late Rev Frederick Broome, formerly rector of Kenley, Shropshire and Catherine Elizabeth Broome (née Napier).

Eleanor had trained as a teacher at Chichester Training College and later became  headmistress of an Elementary Girls’ School in Cambridge. In January 1879 she had taken up a post at the Government Model Primary School for Girls in Natal, South Africa, arriving in Port Elizabeth at the height of the Anglo Zulu War. However, by March 6, 1879 she “had successfully opened the school in the west room of the High School Building”, in what is now known as the Boys’ Model School - Russell High School. Her brother Sir Fredrick Napier Broome was colonial secretary of Mauritius and Natal at the time and "his prompt action in the Isandula affair, by dispatching almost the whole of his garrison to aid Lord Chelmsford, helped to avert a disaster at a critical time in the Zulu War."

A Souvenir Edition of the school magazine reported that "The success of the first government school for girls in Natal must be attributed to Miss Broome......she stuck to it for 14 years though at times not far from a break down.......At the end of 1892 when she left, the staff and pupils.......presented her with a purse of 24 sovereigns. The story of Miss Broome ends with the happy finality common to fairy tales - her nephew, Justice Broome writes, "Eleanor....married a wealthy Barrister and lived to a good old age. Curiously, her husband's surname was Russell."

Russell apparently met Eleanor either in South Africa or on a  ship back from there following her successful setting up of the Girls' School.
The wedding ceremony was at Widcombe parish church in Bath and conducted by the Reverend Canon C H Cholmeley, rector of Beaconsfield church from 1885 until his death in 1895. Russell thus continued the tradition of being married by a cleric from his mother's side of the family. Their only child was a daughter, Margaret, born in 1894. In 1919, Margaret married Sydney Gordon Saunders and they had two daughters, Elizabeth, born in 1922, who never married and died at Oxted in Surrey in 1998 and Evelyn, born in 1926, who married Peter Pangman a Canadian Navy officer,  moved to Canada and died on April 12th 2016 .

Russell lived in a number of different houses during his life. By the time of the 1881 Census, he was living at 86, Queens Gate, London. The Census for that year lists him as head of the household and sharing the house with three of his sisters, Francis Penelope (38) who was married and two unmarried sisters Lucy Janet (33) and Jessie (27). Befitting his status he had a living-in staff of a cook, underservant and manservant. There was also a nursemaid, quite why is unclear as no children are listed. It's assumed the married sister was visiting at the time of the Census. In 1897, when Russell made his will, he was living at 10 Astwood Road London. By the time of 1901 Census, Russell aged 60 remained active in business and the Census describes him as ‘Barrister at Law and Railway Manager’ and living at The Woodlands, Merrow near Guildford. At the time of the Census apart from his wife Eleanor and daughter Margaret, he also had his mother in law, Catherine Broome living with him. The house was run with eight servants including a gardner who lived in the adjacent Gardener's Cottage.  He is also listed as living here in the 1903 Directory of Directors.

Russell was involved in property development and the will, refers to the development of the Aldershot Lodge Estate and other property in the area, including the Manor Estates. At the time of the first codicil to the will in 1906 he had moved and was living at ‘Longdene’, Haslemere, Surrey, The house still exists and is used as offices. The family photographs show a substantial property in extensive grounds. Haslemere was once described as the ‘Switzerland of England’ attracting the ‘wealthy and exotic of the time’.

Longdene House Haslemere in the 1900s

Longdene House Haslemere today

Friday, 29 August 2008

More on JCR

James Russell followed his father into the legal profession and became a student at Lincoln's Inn in November 1862. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1867. He practiced at the Chancery Bar and for several years from 1884 was an Examiner at the High Court. An Examiner examined on oath, the witnesses of both parties involved in civil proceedings. The annual law lists for the period show him to have practised from various chambers in Lincoln's Inn, including 23 Old Buildings, as an equity draftsman and conveyancer. A Chambers' address of 14 Old Square is last given in the annual law lists for 1899, indicating a possible date of retirement from the law. Russell was the editor with Robert Bruce Russell, one of his brothers, of several editions of a classic of family law "The Rights and Liabilities of Husband And Wife" originally written by John Fraser Macqueen (1803-1881).

Russell had three elements to his career, law, property development and railways, with law being the corner stone.
The precise details of Russell's career following his call to the bar in 1867 are currently not known, but by November 1876 he was involved with hiring locomotives to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company. These were the single Fairlies "Snowdon Ranger" and "Moel Tryfan" and the Hunslet engine "Beddgelert". He also financed certain coaches and wagons including ‘three passenger carriages, numbered respectively 6,7 & 8, and the four coal wagons numbered 9.10.11 & 12. From an 1883 accident report, we know that coach number 6 was a Gloucester built Cleminson 6 wheeler and we can surmise that numbers 7 and 8 were of the same design.
The arrangements regarding the ownership of this rolling stock, shed some light on the entrepreneurial aspect of Russell's personality that is also reflected in his property dealings, of which more later.

On the 3rd December 1878, The Moel Tryfan Rolling Stock Company Limited was incorporated "to purchase or otherwise acquire the Locomotives, Engines, Carriages, Wagons, Trucks and Rolling Stock now in use by the N.W.N.G.Railways Co...". The capital was £10,000 and the shareholders included Russell and Ernest E Lake, a solicitor. Lake was a friend of Russell's and later an executor of his estate. The shareholders also included two other barristers in addition to Russell. The directors were Chaloner W Chute a director of the NWNGR and also a shareholder in the MTRSC Ltd, Lake and Russell himself. Like Russell, Chute was a barrister and his family lived on the Vyne Estate in Hampshire. More information on the  Vyne Estate at Wikipedia
In an agreement dated 7th December 1878, Russell sold the rolling stock he had hired out, to the MTRSC for £3,630, of which £3,000 was in shares and the balance of £630 cash, but with an option to take shares instead. Russell also assigned to the company a judgement debt for £882 and costs which had been obtained by him against the NWNGR.. With the NWNGR unable to pay the debt, Russell was appointed the Receiver.
The agreement stated that all the items of equipment listed "are marked with the plate of the vendor affixed thereon and are in the possession of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and in use by them (except as to the engine "Beddgelert") under a certain lease and agreements for hire dated respectively the Eighteenth day of November 1876, the twenty seventh day of April 1878 and the eighteenth day of October 1878". Thus the agreement is slightly ambiguous on the question of whether the locomotive, Beddgelert was actually on the railway at the time of the agreement. We know that the locomotive had been "sent away" from the builders, the Hunslet Engine Company, from their works at Leeds some four months earlier in July 1878.
From the date of the agreement until 1880 the NWNGR hired their rolling stock from the MTRSC. They then bought them and paid the outstanding hire fee by the issue of £6,000 of Debentures.. On 31st July 1889 the MTRSC filed a company return showing a final redemption of shares that stated "...the supply of rolling stock to a small railway company paid for by installments...was fulfilled" . The company was dissolved in 1894.
While all the business of the MTRSC was going on, Russell was appointed Receiver of the NWNGR in December 1878 and was chairman from 1879 until his death in 1912.
Russell, as a mortgagee, also had effective control of the Croesor and Portmadoc Railway and was involved with other railway schemes. He became manager of the Manchester and Milford Railway in 1880. This grandiose scheme never got beyond a standard gauge line between Strata Florida and Pencader in Mid Wales, forming part of the Carmarthen and Cardigan line. He remained linked with the Manchester and Milford until resigning in 1899. It was through the M and M that he came into contact with James Weeks Szlumper, although he was also a near neighbour in London.
Szlumper was appointed Engineer to the NWNGR in the summer of 1891, replacing R H Livesey, who had gone to the Finn Valley Railway in County Donegal. Gowrie Aitchison subsequently took over from Szlumper in March 1898.
Both Russell and Szlumper became promoters of a Vale of Rheidol Light Railway scheme. This particular initiative failed to materialise and Russell resigned from the project in 1899, by which time he was 58. The Vale of Rheidol Railway eventually opened in 1902 and is still operating. Szlumper, was knighted in 1894 and became a director of the NWNGR in 1905. He remained active in many railway activities including the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, until his death in 1926.

Russell and Szlumper promotors
James Szlumper (with beard) centre in picture
copyright Hulton Archive


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

James Cholmeley Russell 1841 – 1912

Longdene House Haslemere Surrey
Curiously, Longdene House at Haslemere in Surrey, now used as offices, has a connection with the Welsh Highland Railway in North Wales. A locomotive from the railway, called 'Russell' is named after James Cholmeley Russell, who used to live at Longdene, and who was intimately involved in one of the precursors of the Welsh Highland, the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company.

James Cholmeley Russell was the eldest son of James Russell QC. (1790 – 1861), and Maria, the daughter of the Reverend Robert Cholmeley. He was born at 40 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London on 26th June 1841, some two years after his parent's marriage and christened James Cholmeley, thus perpetuating his mother’s maiden name. His parents later had two further sons and five daughters. James Russell senior had a large chancery and bankruptcy practice and this may give a clue to his eldest son's future activities.

In Easter 1855, at the age of 13, James Cholmeley Russell was sent to Harrow School leaving in Christmas 1859 and going up to Magdalene College, Oxford as a Commoner. Here he remained until June 1864, graduating with a BA, 3rd class Moderations and 2nd class in Law and Modern History. During his time at Magdalene, Russell was a keen rifle shooter, and his grand daughter, Evelyn Pangman still has a number of pewter mugs awarded as prizes in shooting competitions.