The original home of the Jack Russell

swimbridge - home of the jack russell dogs

view from the top over the village of swimbridge - the home of the original jack russell through the arch to the church Jubilee village hall at swimbridge
Swimbridge is a pretty little village close the Barnstaple. With an active community spirit there is often things going on that are arranged by the locals for all to enjoy

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Parson John Russell's Obituary from the Swimbridge Parochial Newsletter

The article below was published in the Swymbridge Parish Magazine in June 1883 recognising the life and death of the Reverend John Russell. The frame containing the article hangs in the Jack Russell Inn in Swimbridge.

Rev. John Russell
From the Swymbridge Parish Magazine
June 1883

The illness from which the Rev. John Russell had long been suffering, ended fatally on Saturday the 28th of April. The sad event had been expected, and many who had seen him in our Parish Church on Sunday, 4th. of March, realized the fact that the end could not be very far off.

Mr. Russell was born at Dartmouth, on December 21st. 1795. his father just previously, having been appointed to the Rectory of Iddesleigh, near Okehampton. He was the first sent to school at Plympton, and sometime after he was removed to Blundell’s School at Tiverton, where he succeeded in obtaining an exhibition of £30 a year, tenable at Exeter College, Oxford. Soon after having taken his degree at Oxford, Mr Russell was nominated to the curacy of Georgenympton, was ordained deacon in 1819, and priest in the following year by the Bishop (Pelham) of Exeter.

That Mr. Russell entered on the work of the ministry with a due sense of the sacred office, and of his own responsibility by many, who have only heard of his fame in the hunting field, But, if a readiness to visit the sick and weary; to relive the wants of his poorer brethren, however poor himself; to preach God’s word earnestly; to plead in many a neighbouring pulpit, the cause of hospitals and kindred institutions – if such things be of good report, and carry any weight, no human being can say of him – life had been altogether that of an unprofitable servant.

Soon after his appointment to George Nympton, he became Curate of South Molton in addition. Towards the end of 1825, or the beginning of 1826, an event, affecting the happiness of his life happened, namely, his marriage with Miss Penelope Bury, daughter of Admiral Bury of Dennington.

In the Autumn of 1874, a heavy sorrow awaited Mr. Russell – the heaviest he had known through life – by the serious illness of Mrs. Russell, and her subsequent death on New Years Day, 1875. In a letter to an old Curate of his, he alludes thus to the event: “I am at home again, though it no longer seems like home to me; for there is a vacant chair in every room, never again to be filled by her, the dear old soul, to whom I was united forty-nine years ago, come Sunday”.

Mr Russell removed to Swymbridge, after six years residence at Iddesleigh, in the year 1832. In the following year the Perpetual Curacy of Swymbridge and Landkey became vacant, to which he was appointed, remaining in charge for nearly fifty years. Of his consideration and kindheartedness an instance is given in his treatment of the wandering tribes of gipsies, that were accustomed to sojourn awhile on the waste spots in his parish. Instead of persecuting them as trespassers by impounding their donkies, compelling them to strike their tents at a moment’s notice, driving them and their children from pillar to post and treating them more like wolves than human beings, he never failed to befriend and protect them when-ever he though they were unfairly used. In return for this kindness they took active steps to protect his house when they had very good reason to believe it was threatened by a gang of thieves.

It was also recorded that when the King of Gipsies Edward Boswell, fell ill, and felt that his earthly hours were drawing to a close, he expressed a last wish that a charm he had long worn and prized greatly – a Spanish Silver Coin, of the date of Charles III – should be given to Mr. Russell, in token of the sympathy he had ever shown to him and his tribe. At the same time he requested that he might be buried in Swymbridge Churchyard, and by Mr. Russell himself.

It is quite unnecessary that any attempt should be made at a description of Mr. Russell’s characteristics. The best qualities of a kindly hearted man were present in him in a remarkable degree, and wherever his name has become familiar it has always associated with all that is honourable and chivalrous, and withal with recollections of innumerable kind attentions to those with whom his position brought him into close contact. By the poor he was always looked upon as one to whom their concerns were of importance, and who was near to them in heart in the troubles of their lot; and by the rich, from the Prince of Wales downwards, he was always welcomed, as much on account of the air of cheerfulness which always marked his presence; as for the wonderful number of anecdotes with which he sustained the life of the conversation in which he was an animated partaker. By his death the poor and lowly lose a kindly helper, while those in other stations will undoubtedly feel that in their circles a blank, which will never be filled up, has been created.

The change to the Black Torrington Rectory, brought about by the force of circumstances, he never ceased to regret. It could not be otherwise after having forty eight years of his life here.

After three short years in his new home he was brought back here to be laid by the side of her who for nearly fifty years shared his joys and sorrows. The enormous crowd that gathered from all parts of the country to his funeral testified to the esteem in which he was held by all classes of society. They felt that there lay one dead whose kindly actions, whose cheery words and genial smile had endeared him to them: and so they stood round his grave and paid him the last tribute of love.

Any may we say that the lesson his life teaches is this: To be kind one towards another, to be ready to assist each other in the many trials and difficulties of life, and to try and lead honest upright, temperate lives.

the Jack Russell Inn sign in Swimbridge
Framed Parish Parish article in the Jack Russell Inn
Sketch of Swimbridge
Sketch of a Jack Russell Terrier
Sketch of Parson John Russell
A frame of photos and information about swimbridge and john russell
a photo of Parson John Russell


Rev Jack Russell

Rev John (Jack) Russell

Parson Jack was a breed apart

Parson John Russell (1795-1883) was vicar of Swimbridge for 40 years from 1832. But he's better known as the huntsman who bred the famous Parson Jack Russell terrier.

Have you ever wondered why Parson Jack Russell dogs got their name?

The answer can be found right here in Devon, where the breed's creator was born and lived most of his life.

John, also known as Jack, Russell was born in Dartmouth in 1795. Following his university days in Oxford, he returned to the county to work as a churchman in North Devon.

He came from a hunting family and became determined to find a hard working breed of terrier which could flush out the fox.

A Parson Jack Russell terrier

A Parson Jack Russell terrier

Russell acquired his first fox terrier, Trump, from a milkman while studying at Oxford around 1815.

The story goes that Trump was crossed with a Devon hunt terrier to create the Parson Jack Russell breed - also known as a Parson Terrier.

The Parson is distinctly different from the Jack Russell - being sufficiently long in the leg to keep up with the pack, but small enough to pursue its quarry to earth.

Rev Russell was adamant that his terriers would not maim or kill the fox, preferring them to nip and worry it to the point that it would bolt its den and take its chances above ground.

Parson Russell is still remembered at Swimbridge, near Barnstaple, where he was vicar at St James Church for 40 years from 1832.

It's said his sermons were brief by Victorian standards, because his hunting horse was usually saddled and waiting in the churchyard.

The parson, who was a founder member of the Kennel Club, died in 1883 and his body is buried in the churchyard at Swimbridge.

The village has a pub called the Jack Russell Inn, and its sign is a reproduction of a painting of Trump which was commissioned by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The original still hangs at Sandringham.

These days, Jack Russell dogs are hugely popular pets.

webmasters dog - gypsy - an original jack russell now 22 years old
gypsy - the webmasters jack russell now 22 yrs old



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