Russell, Percy


Published in DA Transactions, 1965.

PERCY RUSSELL, F.G.A., F.S.A., died suddenly in Dartmouth on 24 September 1964. Born in Leicester in 1890, he was the third son of Samuel Russell, ironfounder. He was educated at Wyggeston grammar school, where he excelled in mathematics, and later became one of the leading chartered accountants in Leicester. The complete loss of sight and hearing from one eye and ear, resulting from an operation during his early teens, rendered him unfit for military service, and during the first world war he and a brother formed and directed the Leicester Armaments Group, for pooling the resources of local engineering firms engaged on war work.

Mr. Russell took an increasingly important part in local affairs, and for ten years served with distinction as a member of Leicester city council. Also he was a very active Congregationalist and for several years was Honorary Treasurer of the Congregational Union of Leicestershire and Rutland. He was a deacon of Westcote’s Congregational church, and on his retirement from this office was accorded life membership of the church. During the second world war Mr. Russell and his wife worked untiringly for the welfare of Channel Islands refugees evacuated to Leicester.

Mr. Russell’s main hobby was the study of local history, an interest inherited from his father, who for some years was a member of the Wiltshire Archaeological Society. His researches in his native county resulted in the publication of three books: A Leicestershire Road (1934), Leicestershire Maps, with Basil Gimson (1947), and Leicester Forest, with Levi Fox (1948).

On his retirement in 1945 Mr. Russell moved to Devon and for many years lived at ‘Waterside’, Dartmouth. The life and history of his new home at once captured his imagination; he devoted much time to research on the development of Dartmouth, and in 1950 his Dartmouth: a History of the Port and Town was published. He joined the Devonshire Association in 1946 and for seven years was Honorary Editor of our Transactions, also contributing his own papers from time to time. In 1960 he completed a History of Torquay and the Famous Anchorage of Torbay, and with typical generosity arranged for any profits from its sale to accrue to its publishers, the Torquay Natural History Society. His last work, The Good Town of Totnes, appeared shortly before his death. His books are noteworthy for their wealth of illustrations and maps, many of which he reproduced for the first time.

As a lecturer Mr. Russell was in constant demand, and he had spoken to most of our branches throughout the county. Only three months before his death he had delivered the Popular Lecture at the Cullompton meeting.

In Dartmouth Mr. Russell’s interests were many and varied. In 1959 he accepted an invitation from the corporation to re-organise their museum at the Butterwalk. He became its curator and achieved a fine modern display which attracts hundreds of visitors every year. Also he generously provided a fitting memorial to Thomas Newcomen and had the satisfaction of welcoming the Newcomen Society to the installation of one of the original atmospheric beam engines in Royal Avenue Gardens. He founded a chess club and a poetry reading group; he was a member of the English Speaking Union, a trustee of St. Petrox Church Trust Lands and a generous member of the Flavel Congregational Church.

In 1922 Mr. Russell married Gladys Ella, daughter of Edward C. R. Marks of Birmingham, who survives him.

Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year  Vol.Pages
1950Percy RussellThe New Quay at Dartmouth (1584-1640)82281-290
1951Percy RussellSome Historical Notes on the Brixham Fisheries83278-297
1953Percy Russell and Gladys YorkKingswear and Neighbourhood8556-84
1955Percy RussellFire Beacons in Devon87250-302
1959Percy Russell and A. W. EverettNumber Thirteen, Higher Street, Dartmouth91107-111