Kingston Russell is a large mansion house and manor near Long Bredy in Dorset, England, west of Dorchester. The present house dates from the late 17th century but in 1730 was clad in a white Georgian stone facade. The house was restored in 1913, and at the same time the gardens were laid out. The house is on land which was granted to the Russell family ( not ancestors of the Russell Dukes of Bedford) , by an early King, probably King John(1199-1216) at the end of his reign, or his son Henry III. Kingston Russell manor is now part of Long Bredy parish, but earlier appears to have had its own church. The main part of the manor adjoins Winterbourne Abbas to the east and Compton Valence to the north, whilst the house itself adjoins Long Bredy. It is situated in an area known for ancient tumuli and the Kingston Russell Stone Circle. The Poor Lot barrows form a boundary with Littlebredy and Winterbourne Abbas .

Pedigree of Russell of Kingston Russell
Kingston Russell takes the second part of its name from the Russell family who were granted the manor for their service to the King. The manor was held in-chief from the King by Grand Serjeanty, the particular service performed for the King was originally as Marshal of the Buttery, and later that of counting the King's chessman and storing them away after a game. John Russell of Kingston Russell was Constable of Sherborne Castle, and Governor of Corfe Castle, both in Dorset, and died circa 1224. He married Rose Bardolph, da. of Thomas Bardolph and Adela/Sybil Corbet, widow of Henry de Pomeroy. His eldest son Thomas founded the Russell family of Strensham, Worcestershire. John's function at Sherborne brought him into contact with James de Newmarch, Baron of Newmarch whose estates were centred at North Cadbury, Somerset, 7 miles to the north. James de Newmarch died without male heir, leaving 2 infant heiresses. The wardship of both daughters was granted by King John to John Russell, who kept Isabel for the wife of his 3rd. son Ralph, and sold the marriage of the 2nd. daughter to John de Bottrell/Bottreux. The Newmarch lands were thus split in half, one half including Dyrham in Gloucestershire to the Russells, with the second half, including North Cadbury, being confirmed to Bottrell by Henry III in 1218, per the Close Rolls. Sir Ralph Russell continued to hold Kingston Russell from Henry III by Grand Serjeanty, viz "that he should present a cup of beer to our Sovereign Lord the King on the 4 principal feasts of the year" Sir Ralph Russell and Isabel's heir was Sir William Russell(1257-1311), Constable of Carisbrook Castle, Isle of Wight. He married Katherine de Aula, heiress of Yaverland, Isle of Wight (and possibly later Jane Peverell). William died before his son and heir Theobald(1303-1349) had reached his majority of 21, and the infant Theobald was granted in wardship to Ralph III de Gorges, 1st Baron Gorges(d.1224) of Knighton, Isle of Wight and Wraxall, Somerset. Gorges married off the young Theobald to his 2nd daughter Eleanor. Gorge's son, Ralph IV, 2nd. Baron Gorges, found himself without his own male heir, with only 3 sisters as heiresses to his ancient and noble line. He thus made his nephew Theobald II Russell his heir, apparently with the provision that he should change his name to Gorges, bear the ancient Gorges armourials and inherit the bulk of the Gorges lands, including Wraxall, Somerset, 6 miles west of Bristol. Theobald Russell "Gorges" thus established a new line of Gorges at Wraxall, where the family became well established (see Sir Ferdinando Gorges). The eldest son of Theobald and Eleanor was Ralph(1319-1375), the second son being Theobald, who duly adopted the name Gorges and inherited his mother's lands at Wraxall and Bradpole, Dorset. Ralph his elder brother had as his heir Sir Maurice Russell(c.1352-1416) of Dyrham, Gloucestershire. To the latter, whose funerary brass can be seen at Dyrham Church, descended Kingston Russell, the manor and hundred of Redhove (Redhone) and Beminster Forum (Beaminster) in the manor of Bradpole, as well as the manor of Dyrham, Gloucestershire and Horsington, Somerset. By his first wife Isabel Childrey he had two daughters who on the death of his son Thomas in 1432 from his second marriage to Joan Dauntsey, became his co-heiresses. Margaret Russell(d.1466) the eldest daughter had married firstly her father's neighbour Sir Gilbert Denys of Siston and thus Kingston Russell and Dyrham passed to the Denys family. The Denyses appear never to have lived at Kingston Russell, and in 1542 Sir Walter Denys(1501-1571) of Dyrham, great-great-grandson of Sir Gilbert Denys and Margaret Russell sold Kingston Russell to his younger brother Sir Maurice Denys (1516-1563), who sold it in March 1543/4 to the Crown.

Erroneously claimed as Heritage of Dukes of Bedford
It was long thought that Sir Theobald Russell(1303-1349) had a third son William who became the ancestor of the Russell Dukes of Bedford. In fact Theobald had 5 sons, the additional 2 being John and Richard, as the 1944 research of Mr Raymond Gorges has revealed Wiffen proposed that Sir Theobald Russell had married secondly Eleanor de la Tour of Berwick, who is a confirmed ancestor of the Bedford Russells. However, this marriage can never have taken place as Theobald Russell died in 1340/1 famously leading the forces defending the Isle of Wight against French invasion, and his widow Eleanor de Gorges survived him until 1376. Gladys Scott-Thomson FRHS in her exhaustive and scholarly work on the early Bedford pedigree, Two Hundred Years of Family History, London, 1930, has not found any proven link between the Bedford Russells, descended from a certain Henry Russell, a Weymouth merchant from Berwick-in-Swyre, and the Russells of Kingston Russell. There is much scope for confusion, as Berwick is only 3 miles to the south-west of Kingston Russell. It is interesting to compare the armourials of the two families, which have certain similarities. The arms of Russell of Kingston Russell survive earliest (without tinctures) on the funerary brass of Sir Maurice ("Morys") Russell at Dyrham Church, dated 1416/17. They are shown also on the 1506 funerary brass of Walter Denys at Olveston Church, where the Denys arms are quartered with the Russell arms of his grandmother Margaret, together with those of Gorges (New). These Russell arms are: Argent, on a chief gules three bezants. A bezant is a Byzantine gold coin, much beloved by crusaders. The arms of the Russell Dukes of Bedford are: Argent, a lion rampant gules on a chief sable three escallops of the first. Thus both arms have a field argent, both use a chief, which is filled with three circular or near circular devices - bezants and escallops. It may well be that the Ducal House created their arms as differences from their supposed ancestors of Kingston Russell. Mr Wiffen, who was commissioned by a 19th.c. Duke of Bedford to write a history of the ducal family, proposed that the arms with the escallops were the original arms of Russell of Kingston Russell, which proposition was followed by Burke's Armorials (1884), and that a cadet branch of the Russell family adopted the bezant arms as differences. This is clearly erroneous as the bezant arms alone appear in mediaeval rolls of arms. It would not have been diplomatic for Mr Wiffen, whose work is fatally flawed in the matter of the connection of the two families but otherwise contains much valuable information, to have reported to his generous patron that the lineage of the Dukes was a cadet branch, and indeed even if that an uncertain one. In reality, the earliest Earls of Bedford were unconcerned about the age of their lineage, deeming the possession of a "Great Man" as a recent ancestor all that mattered. Like Napoleon, the first Earl could say witheringly to those who questioned the antiquity of his House: "Moi, je suis l'ancetre". So convinced were the noble Russells that they were descended from the Russells of Kingston Russell that Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford purchased, or procured the transfer, of Kingston Russell from the Crown in 1560. This was clearly a move prompted by sentimentality, albeit erroneous, since the Russells by then had many properties for habitation, including Tavistock Abbey in Devon. In 1626 the 3rd Earl of Bedford(d.1627) commissioned William Le Neve, the York Herald, to produce a Russell pedigree. Scott Thomson states this to be " wrong in most of its details, and from the point of view of strict verity it is an unworthy document". Le Neve's technique seems to have been that he visited Normandy in search of any important personage called "Russell". He surmised that English Earls (the Dukedom was not created until 1694, the Earldom in 1550) must have had noble ancestors from the time of Charlemagne at least, and thus gave the Dukes a certain Hugo de Rosel, dug out from dusty archives somewhere in France, as their early ancestor. In fact the name Russell was quite common in the middle ages, signifying "red-headed". Le Neve went a step further and provided an illustration of the proposed noble forefather, a total work of fiction, but endearingly amusing nonetheless, showing the ignorance which existed in the 17th.c. as to what a Norman knight would have looked like. He thus bears a Saracen's curved sword, perhaps a reference to the Norman tenure of Sicily, where cultures of East and West synthesised. At some point possibly around the 1640's, part of the manor, including the house, came into the possession of the Michel family, who partly rebuilt the seventeenth century Kingston Russell House as it still stands today at the end of a long driveway. The Michel family also owned Dewlish House in Dewlish, Dorset and removed there sometime during the 1760's when the house was then let. Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, 1st Baronet, Nelson's flag captain, was born at Kingston Russell on 5th April 1769, his mother being the daughter of Thomas Masterman of this place. At some time before 1861 the Dukes of Bedford bought Kingston Russell for a second time, and when Lord John Russell(1792-1878) the prominent Liberal statesman, 3rd son of the 6th Duke of Bedford, was raised to the peerage as an earl on 30 July 1861, he chose the title Earl Russell of Kingston Russell, which title is still extant. By the turn of the twentieth century however, the house was in a dilapidated condition and the estate was sold in 1913. The new owner brought the house back to its former glory, extended it and laid out the gardens. In 2010 the house remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

Chapel of St. James
A small chapel dedicated to St. James once stood nearby. It is reputed to have been built by the Russells and was financed by them through tithes and the glebe in Pitcombe. The last rector of the chapel was Roger Bond who was appointed to it, along with Little Bredy in 1531. The inhabitants then used the church at Long Bredy for burials. After its closure it was leased variously. In 1565 it was granted to Edith Cole, widow and John and Joan Martin, her children for their lives. It was then granted to John, Henry and William Mintern for their lives from 1585, then in 1605 to Fenton, esq. captain of the guard, and 1607 to George Ward. The chapel of St James then came to the Mellers of Little Bredy who sold the tithes and part of the glebe to the Michels. By this time the chapel was in ruins and in Hutchins' time only the walls remained. During the time of the Michel's residence of the manor, according to Hutchins, it was inhabited by poor people.

  • Scott-Thomson, Gladys,F.R.H.S. Two Centuries of Family History, London, 1930. A study of the Bedford Russell early pedigree.
  • Wiffen, J.H. Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell from the Time of the Norman Conquest, 1883. Fatally flawed in its linkage of the Russells of Kingston Russell with the Russell Earls of Bedford.
  • Round, John Horace, Studies in Peerage & Family History, Westminster, 1901, vol.2, pp.250-277, "The Origin of the Russells". A severe critique of the work of Wiffen, specifically his invention of ancestors for sir John Russell(d.1224)
  • Gorges, Raymond. History of the Family of Gorges ("The Story of a Family through Eleven Centuries Illustrated by Portraits and Pedigrees Being a History of the Family of Gorges"), Boston USA, 1944. Extensive research on the Russell family.
  • Pitt-Rivers, Michael, 1968. Dorset. London: Faber & Faber.


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