The Russell Institute – A Gift to Paisley And It’s 2016 Makeover Revealed!

With the new look, Russell Institute exterior revealed for all of Paisley to see this week. We thought we would go back in time and tell the story of how this beautiful build came to be.

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A Gift to Paisley

The Russell Institute was gifted to Paisley by a Miss Agnes Russell. On the 19th of March 1927. Miss Russell had the building constructed as a memorial to her two brothers, Robert and Thomas Russell (R. & T. Russell, Solicitors). As a result of passing away in 1923 and 1920.

The building was used as a clinic for the welfare of the children of the County of Renfrew and the Burgh of Paisley. The building was designed by Paisley firm of architects, Abercrombie & Maitland. Miss Agnes Russell had placed no financial restrictions on the building and was built as a befitted monumental memorial as well as a functional building.

Russell Institute

Source: Heritage Centre, Paisley Central Library

Mr. Maitland who also designed the Arnotts Store in Gauze Street. Designed the building on vertical lines as opposed to horizontal lines, which had become the norm for economic reasons since the end of the First World War.

The Russell Institute made architectural history having the first skeleton fabric of reinforced concrete in the West of Scotland. It was clad in Blaxter Freestone. The windows were arranged to allow the maximum amount of natural light into  the building, without distracting from the overall appearance of the external bronze frames.

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Statue Family Likeness

Mr. Archibald Dawson was the sculptor chosen to carry out the architect’s designs. For the design of the main sculpture above the entrance. He designed the statues of his wife, Isobel, and sons. The main doorway is guarded by a large maternal figure in bronze. With her brood flanked by two shields. One of the shields is the Paisley Coat of Arms. The other the symbol of Aesculapius, God of Medicine.

Russell Institute

Source: Heritage Centre, Paisley Central Library

Above the large window is a massive bronze figure of a protective angel guarding the young generation in its arms with the motto A DEO SALUS “Health comes from God” carved into the stonework. Around the building on the lower level are smaller figures in bronze each depicting a particular aspect of the work that would be carried out within the building, e.g. Dentistry, Eye ailments.

Italian marble was used inside the building to embellish the large and lofty hall which is three storey’s high and the main staircase. Wrought-iron balconies adorned the first-floor windows till about 1960. The building was completed in 1926-27, the total cost of the project never being revealed.

A formal opening ceremony was performed by H.R.H. Princess Mary, the Princess Royal. On 19th March 1927, Princess Mary was presented with a golden key designed by the architect.

Unfortunately, Miss Russell died in London in June 1926 before seeing her plans come to fruition.

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Recent Take Over

In 2015 the building went up for sale, the Paisley Development Trust contacted the health board. To take the building on if the health board couldn’t find a buyer for the building. Paisley Development Trust raised money to undertake a feasibility study on the building,  to show it had a future. With meetings with the council and the health board to look at ways forward, this led to the transfer of the building into council ownership and a tenant found for it.

Paisley Heritage and Mysteries asked Piero Pieraccini what he thought of the brand new Russell Institute’s exterior. He told us “I, particularly like the newly cleaned statues, the expressions on the wee sick kid’s faces, are brilliant, and the sun behind the Angel is stunning. It all makes for a real eye catching building especially coming down causeyside street”. Piero is on the Paisley Development Trust board and was the Chairman for the campaign.


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