Hubert Thomas de Blois Russell


This post was written by Victoria Doran.

Hubert Russell is another man who is only known from his entry in the Book of Remembrance. He served in the Liverpool Rifles, and died in the period just before the Battle of Paschendaele started. He had some interesting ancestors. He probably never lived in West Kirby, but all his relatives moved there after his death.

Russell H T de B - BR entry.jpeg

Book of Remembrance entry

It is not known what Hubert Thomas de Blois Russell was called by his family and friends. He will be referred to as Hubert in this post for simplicity.

Hubert was born in the late summer of 1892 in Liverpool and baptised on 9 November 1892 at St Mary, Walton on the Hill. He was the eldest of the 8 children of Hubert Ernest Russell (1867-1934) and Ada Emily Forster (1868-1950), though sadly 3 of his siblings died before the age of 2.

The Russell family has been traced back 6 generations in Staffordshire, to Henry Russell (???-1759) who married Sarah Whitehouse (???-1793) in Wolverhampton. By that date the Russell family had already lived in Wednesbury, Staffordshire for several generations. Henry Russell must have been wealthy as he was a voter and was awarded a Coat of Arms. Hubert is descended from his 3rd son Thomas Russell (1743-1816). Thomas’s 2nd son James Russell (1774-1849) married Sarah Best (1779-1842) and this marriage is the source of Hubert’s third name ‘de Blois’ as Sarah’s mother was Sarah de Blois, daughter of a London merchant Blois de Blois. It is possible that the de Blois family line can be traced to the 9th century in France. Also of interest is that Sarah Best came from a long line of Church of England clergyman, the earliest known of whom was John Best who was made Bishop of Carlisle in 1560 by Elizabeth I on the restoration of the Protestant religion.

Elizabeth (Jevons) Best burial snipped.jpeg

Burial of Elizabeth (Jevons) Best, wife of Hubert’s 5 times great grandfather in the South chancel of St Bartholomew, Wednesbury

The earliest Russell for whom an occupation has been identified is James Russell who was gun barrel maker and iron founder, but probably earlier members of the Russell family were also involved in metal working in one form or another, as this is a theme that descends down the family, and is also the main industry of Wednesbury and the surrounding area.

Hubert Ernest Russell is known to have been called Bertie as a child, so he will be called that to distinguish him. Bertie was born in Tipton, Staffordshire, and became an engineer. He was an early adopter of new technologies, becoming in turn a cycle builder, then the manager of a taxi cab company, before ending up owning a motor garage.

It was Hubert’s grandfather, James de Blois Russell who first moved from Staffordshire. He was unusual in the family as he did not work with metal in any form. He initially moved his family to Rusholme, Manchester, but they were in Liverpool by 1884 when his youngest daughter was born. James de Blois Russell seems to have struggled to live up to family expectations in some way. His wife and several of his children emigrated to America around the time of his death.

Bertie married Ada Emily Forster on 21 December 1891 at St Margaret, Anfield.

Ada came from a very different background. Her grandfather William Forster (1795-1870) was an agricultural labourer from Leftwich, Cheshire who had moved to Liverpool by 18 August 1825 when he married Mary Bailey (1795-1848) at St Mary, Edge Hill. Their son Thomas Forster (1826-1893) became a sea going marine engineer. Thomas married Eliza Jane Groom (1830-1917) in 1847 in Liverpool, where her father Henry Groom (1792-1869) had moved from Wallasey, where he was originally a yeoman farmer with his own land. In Liverpool he did not fare well slipping from the independence of being a cow keeper to the hard labour of a cotton porter.

Bertie moved his family to Wallasey in the 1890s. Hubert spend most of his childhood there and by 1911 was working as an apprentice engineer in cycle and motoring, probably with his father.

In the summer of 1914 Hubert married Mary Ellen Upton (known as Mary Howard Upton) (1888-1966) from Wallasey. Mary’s father married twice and her mother was Eliza Harriet Howard (1861-1937), hence her preferred name. The family was large and life must have been a struggle, especially after her father Robert Upton (1851-1906) died. Unsurprisingly Mary became a domestic servant.

Hubert and Mary had one child, Dorothy Emily Russell (1917-???).

It is not known when Hubert joined the army, but it is probable that he was conscripted in 1916. He became Rifleman 242764 in the 1st/6th Battalion (Liverpool Rifles), King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Liverpool Rifles cap badge jpg.jpg

Liverpool Rifles cap badge

He will have joined the battalion as a replacement. Nothing is known of his service until he died of wounds on 15 June 1917 near Ypres. This was before the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, so presumably the battalion was holding trenches in the front line. He was 25 years old.

He is buried in Meninghem Military Cemetery, and is not known to be commemorated on any other memorial.

Mendinghem Military Cemetery.jpeg

Meninghem Military Cemetery

In September 1921 Mary was remarried at St Bridget, West Kirby to Joseph Harold Pownall (1896-1959). Joseph had deep West Kirby roots. Mary and Joseph did not have any children. Dorothy married Henry K C Knight in 1942 and they had a daughter.

It is not known exactly when the rest of the Russell family moved to West Kirby (they were all there by 1939) . The earliest record found is when Hubert’s sister Leonora Evelyn Russell (1900-1995) married William Henry Tottey (1897-1978) at the start of 1922. It is likely that the family had been in West Kirby for a while before this for them to have met.

In any event by the time the Book of Remembrance was compiled, Hubert was in the memory of many people living in West Kirby and was duly recorded.

Birth: Jul 1892 at Liverpool, Lancashire
Death: 15 Jun 1917 near Ypres, Belgium; died of wounds
Addresses: 45 Mallory Road, Liscard (01); 41 Wallasey Road, Liscard (11)
Occupation: cycle and motor engineer
Unit: 1st/6th (Liverpool Rifles) Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 242764; Rifleman
Medals: Victory and British War
Buried: Meninghem Military Cemetery, Belgium
Sources: CWGC, MC, SDGW, RSE, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR, Burke’s Family Trees


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