Sunday, 1 March 2015

Russell at Oxford

Until now the only known photographs of James Cholmeley Russell were those in the
Russell at Magdalen College
possession of the late Evelyn Pangman (1926-2016), his grand daughter and these largely dated from the last ten years or so of his life. However, we now have one of when Russell was a young undergraduate, thanks to one Alfred Earle and Dr. Robin Darwall-Smith the archivist of Magdalene College, Oxford.
Dr. Darwall-Smith has recently been making the College’s archives catalogue available on the Internet with the express objective of helping researchers and generally making the College’s archives more publicly accessible. This excellent policy resulted in the Group’s chairman Nick Booker, visiting the archive one Friday morning in October 2014 to look though the Photograph Album of Alfred Earle that is in the archives. Mr Earle matriculated from Magdalen in 1859 and took his BA in 1865 and his MA in 1866. He was thus a contemporary of Russell who left Harrow School at Christmas 1859 going up to Magdalene and matriculating the following year, graduating in 1864.
The large bound album is a personal photographic collection of local scenes and buildings including pubs (!) but more particularly of many of Earle’s fellow students including photographic studio portraits, group photographs taken around the College, the Oxford University Volunteer Force on parade with their uniforms and rifles and at camp in Wimbledon and views around Oxford and locally. Interestingly there are several photographs devoted to the Prince of Wales and his entourage, later King Edward VII, who was at Magdalen from October 1859 to the summer of 1860; so Russell may have met the future King.
The photograph of Russell shown here is believed to have taken around this time. Dr Darvill - Smith commented that it was then the  practice for undergraduates to have a number of photographs taken of themselves, which would then be passed round in exchange for one from the  recipient, a sort of analogue Facebook!
What is remarkable about this album is that is that it was assembled some twenty years before George Eastman of Kodak fame developed roll film, in 1884, to replace the photographic plates and toxic chemicals that the photographer had to carry around.
Nick Booker extends his thanks to Dr Darwall- Smith and his Archives Assistant Mr Ben Taylor for their help and co-operation. The photographs of Russell and the College are reproduced courtesy of the President of Magdalen College.
James Cholmeley Russell
Magdalen in the mid 19th Century

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