Our New Joseph Russell Stained Glass Windows

Have you seen our two beautiful stained glass windows that we recently installed? We want to share with you their fascinating story and to do so, we have to tell you about an e-mail we received and then go back to the 19th century.

In 2019 we were contacted by Dr Andrew Russell, who explained that we had some stained glass in our collection which was a key part of Russell family history and if we have any plans for it as he would love to see it restored to its former glory. The window was part of a pair we had in our collection: one was of St John (which is the Russell window) and the other is of communion which was created in 1947.

The St. John Window

The window had been donated to St John’s Church by Elisabeth Russell, in memory of her husband Joseph Russell, in 1917. Elisabeth Russell was Dr Andrew Russell’s great, great, great grandmother.

Joseph Russell

Joseph Russell was a shipbuilder who was born in the 8th of April, 1834 at Blackheath, London. His father, Joshua Russell, was a shipbuilder who had given up his legal practice to become a minister.

Joseph Russell

Joseph left school in 1848 and attended Kings College, London before being apprenticed to J.W. Hoby & Co , shipbuilders in Renfrew. Joseph rose through the ranks quickly and did well for himself before marrying Elisabeth in 1858. The couple went on to have 3 sons and 6 daughters.

In 1858, Joshua took over the lease of the Ardrossan dockyard, building around 30 small vessels over 6 years before moving on to other shipbuilding opportunities in the area. The family lived at Seafield House in Ardrossan (which had been built for a Mrs Bartlemore in 1858) which Joshua purchased in 1891 and where he would live until his death in June, 1917.

Joseph and the family were very involved in the church, with the work ‘St. John’s Church 1844-1944′ stating:

“the memorials in the church are of the war, however, for in 1919 also a stained glass window was presented by Mrs Russell, of Seafield, in memory of her husband, Mr Joseph Russell, to whom the church owed so much, not only by reason of his great ability, but because of his zeal in the church’s spiritual life.” p.10

The Grave of Joseph Russell

Restoration Works

We worked with Dr Russell and it was decided that it would be wonderful to restore the windows and display them permanently in our Heritage Centre. Conservation work was soon underway, led by Susan Lucky, as the windows were dismantled and professionally cleaned and repaired.

Where necessary, new pieces were created to replace those that had broken or that had been lost. This is a complex process! Some pieces of glass had to be recreated to perfectly fit the window. Even getting the colour correct is a challenge.

Glass shards laid out to compare tonal values
A conservator copying a design onto a new pieces of glass to replace the broken original

Eventually, the work was completed. With the windows fully restored, cleaned and sealed back together and en-route to the Heritage Centre to be installed. The installation team, Rainbow Glass Studios, worked diligently throughout the course of an entire day to get the windows in place and installed.


The Windows Being Installed

On a sunny day they look magnificent and this part of the history of North Ayrshire and the Russell family is permanently preserved in our Heritage Centre. There is also a video playing below them which you can listen to and learn about their history on your visit.

You should definitely pop in to see them!

The Installed Windows

Further Reading

St. John’s Church Ardrossan 1844 – 1944 – p10 has information on the donation of the window