Vicar of Todmorden 1883-1910

Edward Russell was born in Dorking, Surrey, in 1843, the third child and elsest son of Edward James Richard Russell and his wife Eliza Browne. He married Mary Georgiana Baron at Heywood in 1875 and they had 9 children, 6 of them born in Todmorden.


He studied at St. Mary Hall Oxford, gaining a B.A. (1st. class Theol.Sch.) in 1870 and M.A. in 1875. He was made a Deacon in 1870 and ordained Priest in 1871.

He was appointed as Vicar of Todmorden in 1883 and served that community for the next 27 years. He was forced to resign his duties due to failing health in 1910.

The following article appeared in the Manchester Diocesan Magazine in April 1910:

E.J. Russell, M.A. (hon. Canon of Manchester) Vicar of Todmorden.


The Diocese of Manchester has lost the services of one of its most active and capable clergy by the retirement of the Rev. E. J. Russell, who has resigned the Benefice of Todmorden, the parish in which he laboured for the last 27 years with untiring energy.


A sudden failure of health incapacitated him from active work, and eventually compelled him reluctantly to resign his charge.


The late Bishop Fraser ordained him in the first year of his episcopate, 1870, and six years afterwards presented him to the living of St James', Heywood, and in the year 1883 to Todmorden. Earnestness, common sense, and original thought, combined with scholarship and dignified language, caused Mr Russell to be much sought after as a preacher; but though he was always ready to help other parishes he never allowed anything to interfere with the claims of his own parish.


The parish of Todmorden was a difficult one to work, and the care of the two churches, ST. MARY'S and CHRIST CHURCH, and the district of Shade taxed the Vicar's strength to the uttermost, and ultimately lead to his sudden and deeply regretted "breakdown."

The very large amounts raised fir the restoration and extensive improvements in both Churches, and the cost of providing for maintaining the efficiency of the Parochial Schools testify to the respect and confidence placed in him by the parishioners. Throughout the Diocese he was well known as a most strenuous advocate of religious education, and he rendered great service in the Church's struggle for fair and just treatment; he was also a most valued and useful member of the Committees of the Diocesan Societies, and for many years the able chairman of the General Purposes Committee of the Church Building and Endowment Society.


Bishop Moorhouse recognised his worth by conferring on him, in 1897, an Honary Canonry in the Cathedral; and the beneficed clergy of the Archdeaconry of Manchester elected him as one of the proctors to Convocation.


Canon Russell possessed literary attainments of no mean order; the readers of the London "Guardian" had evidence of this, in the appearance, from time to time, under the letters of E. J. R., of some thought of the day embodied in poetical form. Much as those, who only knew him in his public capacity, admired and esteemed him, it was perhaps only his intimate friends who could fully appreciate his loveable character, full of kindly humour, and unfailing charity.

T. J. B.

In March of the following year Canon Russell died. He is buried at St. Annes-on-Sea in Lancashire. The congregation of St. Marys and Christ Church erected a tablet in Christ Church to his memory.

To the Glory Of God and

as a mark of affection and respect to the


Vicar of Todmorden 1883-1910

Hon. Canon of Manchester and Proctor in Convocation

This tablet was erected by his people

Easter 1911

in commemoration of his faithful ministry.

During his incumbency and largely owing to his efforts the chancels of this church and St. Mary's were enriched with many beautiful gifts.

A strenuous and able worker for the cause of religious education, he was respected and valued not only in this parish but throughout the diocese.

Fell asleep March 1911. Buried at St. Annes-on-Sea.


Extract from Manchester Diocesan Magazine April 1911.





By the death of Canon Russell on March 14th, the whole Diocese suffers loss, for he was one whose activities were not confined by the limits of his parish. His own people doubtless had the best opportunity of appreciating his many attractive qualities, but to all, even to those who knew him but slightly, he was remarkable for his geniality, bonhomie, and courtesy. He was also a man of culture, and considerable literary taste and ability, and whose characteristics were immediately conspicuous both in his ordinary intercourse with his friends and on occasions when he was heard as a public speaker. His work for the Diocese and in connection with Church movements in the Diocese was varied and long continued. He was for many years chairman Of the General Purposes Committee of the Church Building Society, in which position his tact and business capacity were often successful in the solution of difficult problems, and his zeal for the objects of the other Diocesan Societies was great and earnest and whole hearted. He was a strong believer in the importance of religious instruction as an essential part of education, as evidenced by the fact of his being one of the founders and the first chairman of the Church Schools Emergency League. His earnestness of manner and the facility with which he gave expression to his views constituted him a powerful advocate of any cause which he espoused. But Canon Russell will be chiefly remembered by those who knew him best as a devout and earnest Churchman, whose piety showed itself in generosity and kindliness of temperament. There was nothing of smallness or bigotry about him; he had hosts of friends, and it is doubtful if he ever made an enemy.



Writing a booklet about St. Marys Church, Todmorden, Canon H. W. Hodgson, vicar from 1952 to 1971, wrote:

The Church of God is not bricks and mortar but people and, as we have noted, the people of God have worshipped at St. Marys for many centuries. Many generations have passed into the next life with no memorial behind them except the ongoing life of the Christian Community at present. We do, however, have quite a bit of information about some of the priests who have ministered here. We have only space to mention three.

Significantly, Canon Hodgson chose to mention Edward Russell amongst the three.



Canon Edward James Russell


Coming to Todmorden in 1883, Canon Russell did much to establish the present pattern of Church life in the parish. In his youth he had been with father Lowder and Father Mackonchie in the East End of London and had witnessed the fierce riots of mobs who interpreted the efforts of these priests to put true religion back into the dry officialness of the Church of England as "popery". (Although, through their ministrations, many thousands were brought to the Christain faith). In Todmorden, Russell was responsible for the new chancels on both churches and the establishing of regular Holy Communion as the norm. He had a great interest in music and drama, and - with his brother William (of St. Paul's Cathedral), the writer of several Anglican psalm chants) - composed musical pantomimes for performance in the parish, and profits from which helped support the Church schools. The "Sunday Times" in 1901 commented, "If many more "worthies" take to shining in dramatic walks poor frivolous playwrights will be reduced to writing sermons!"

He was invited by Lord Halifax to take a seat on the Council of the English Church Union and was a champion of the Church's interest in education. He was vicar of Todmorden for 27 years, a Proctor in Convocation, and a Honary Canon of Manchester.


One of the more enjoyable times of his incumbency must have been the arrival of the peal of bells at Christ Church, a gift from Hannah Howarth in memory of her siblings. He is shown here, 4th from left, when the bells were delivered. His name is engraved on the number 7 bell for posterity. More about the bells and the dedication can be read in the story on CHRIST CHURCH



The above information and the photos of Rev. Russell and of his memorial tablet

kindly provided by Richard Jeffery