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British Industrial History

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Joseph Russell

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Joseph Russell (1834-1917) of Russell and Co

1834 Born on 8 April at Blackheath, London, the son of Joshua Russell, a solicitor in Southwark, and his second wife, Jane Ann Russell.

After leaving school in 1848 Russell attended classes at King's College, London

1850 Apprenticed to J. W. Hoby and Co, engineers, iron-founders, and shipbuilders at Renfrew on the River Clyde. This firm had been established by his stepsister's husband, J. W. Hoby, a partner in the Birmingham civil engineering firm of Fox, Henderson and Co.

1854 Hoby's business collapsed and was taken over by its creditors. Russell completed his apprenticeship the following year and on gaining his majority was given £1000 by his father. He was immediately appointed manager of the works.

1858 married Elisabeth (Bessie) Wright; they had three sons and six daughters.

1859 Russell left Renfrew to take over the lease of the Ardrossan dockyard in Ayrshire.

Over the next six years built about thirty small vessels.

1865 Russell gave up the lease as the owner would not sell the yard to him.

1866 Appointed manager of Lawrence Hill's shipyard at Port Glasgow.

1869 Russell left, because Hill was a poor businessman, and returned to London

1873 Started a new shipbuilding firm, Russell and Co, at Port Glasgow in partnership with Anderson Rodger and William Todd Lithgow which became an immediate success

1878 Joseph Russell suffered a serious setback when the City of Glasgow Bank, in which he was an investor, failed.

1879 the firm expanded by acquiring J. E. Scott's bankrupt Cartsdyke yard in Greenock.

1881 Constructed an entirely new yard at Kingston in Port Glasgow

The partners experimented with new technology. In 1886 they introduced a standard 3000 ton class of sailing vessel equipped with auxiliary engines and brace halyard winches.

1891 Russell retired from the firm, leaving Lithgow in control of the Kingston and Cartsdyke yards, supported by a loan from Russell. He continued to assist Lithgow, particularly in looking after the financial side of the firm.

During the 1890s Russell began to speculate heavily in the property market.

Lithgow fell seriously ill in 1907 and, although his loan to the firm had been paid off, Russell helped Lithgow's sons run the company. He managed the financial side of the business for them until 1913, when he finally retired.

1917 He died on 3 June at Seafield House, Ardrossan. His wife died in 1921.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Joseph Russell, ODNB [1]