RUSSELL, John II (by 1501-66), of Westminster, Mdx. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1501, 2nd s. of Richard Russell (d. 14 May 1517) of Westminster by Constance. m. by Mar. 1531, Christian, da. of Humphrey Coke of London, 2s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Master carpenter, the King’s works 1 Oct. 1532-d., jt. with William Clement 1532-40 and with John Colbrand 8 Feb. 1565-d.; junior warden, Carpenters’ Co. 1538-9, senior warden 1540-1, master 1541-2, 1549-50, 1557-8, 1565-d.; surveyor of the works, Westminster abbey by 1555-d.2


Whereas his elder brother William became a wax-chandler, John Russell followed their father into carpentry. Although the father was never appointed royal master carpenter— a post held by Russell himself for nearly 34 years and before that by Russell’s father-in-law’ he was chief carpenter at Westminster abbey and master carpenter of the royal works at King’s College chapel in Cambridge and of Wolsey’s works at York Place and Hampton Court. By his will made in 1514 and proved three years later he left his lease of the Bell in Westminster to his wife for life, directing that upon her death it was to go to their son William. This came about in January 1522 and two years later the property was divided between William, his brother John and their two sisters. In 1531 the brothers assigned the remaining years of their leases to Cromwell for the King’s use as part of an agreement whereby Russell obtained the post of master carpenter in succession to James Nedeham who not long afterwards was promoted to the surveyorship.3

Russell is first met with in 1515 as an apprentice-carpenter working under his father’s direction at York Place: three years later he had joined the staff responsible for the maintenance of Westminster abbey and its properties. During the 1530s he undertook repairs to various royal manors, but apart from those at Otford, St. Albans and Whitehall between 1541 and 1548 and minor ones at Westminster from 1551 to 1558 his only later known work for the crown was the reconstruction of the Poor Knights’ Lodgings at Windsor and the building of a conduit there in 1557-8. From 1555 or earlier he was surveyor of the works at Westminster abbey, a post held by his brother until 1543, and he was consulted over a number of major building projects. He and the Westminster victualler Robert Smallwood were the Members elected by the city to the Parliament of 1545, when it is first known to have returned Members. Nothing is known about Russell’s part in the House, but while the opening of the Parliament was postponed he led a number of carpenters to Boulogne. He assisted at subsequent elections for Westminster and Middlesex in February 1553 and signed the Westminster election indentures in October 1554 and 1555.4

Russell was a sick man when he made his will on 19 Dec. 1564. He provided for his children and left his wife an inn called the Christopher, which had been her father’s, an adjacent tenement which he had bought from Henry VIII, and another in the Little Sanctuary, which he had bought from Edward VI: his wife was also to enjoy the remaining years of his leases, including that of the rectory of St. Margaret’s, Westminster. He recovered from his illness, but in the following year he surrendered his patent as master carpenter in favour of a new one for himself and John Colbrand who succeeded him in the office at his death on 1 July 1566. He was buried in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields three days later and his will was proved by his widow before the end of the month.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from apprenticeship. D. R. Ransome, ‘Artisan dynasties in London and Westminster in the 16th cent.’, Guildhall Misc. ii. 236-47.
  • 2. The King’s Works, iii. 408; Recs. Carpenters’ Co. ed. Marsh, iii. 211; Westminster abbey 37557v.
  • 3. Guildhall Misc. ii. 240-6; J. H. Harvey, Eng. Med. Architects, 233; Westminster abbey, reg. 2, ff. 38, 109, 183v, 207v; London consist. ct. Thirlby; Cat. Anct. Deeds, v. 441-2, 506; The King’s Works, iii. 10, 41.
  • 4. Guildhall Misc. ii. 242; Harvey, 231; The King’s Works, iii. 3, 31-32, 41, 56, 318-19; LP Hen. VIII, v, xiv, xvii-xxi Westminster abbey 37045, 37557v, 37923, 38005-8; C219/20/79, 80, 23/85, 24/105.
  • 5. PCC 21 Crymes, 5 Thower; Westminster abbey 37777, 38644; CPR, 1563-6, p. 255; Recs. Carpenters’ Co. iii. 211; St. Martin-in-the-Fields: Churchwardens’ Accts. ed. Kitto, 226.