The Raymond Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments, housed in St Cecilia's Hall, is one of the world's most important collections of its type. It comprises 21 instruments. Raymond Russell FSA FTCL (1922-1964) began to collect early keyboard instruments shortly after the Second World War and in 1959 published his book "The Harpsichord and Clavichord - an Introductory Survey", in which many of his own acquisitions now in the Raymond Russell Collection are illustrated. He became an acknowledged expert in this field and wrote the catalogue for the collection of keyboard instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Russell was an accomplished harpsichord player and passionately keen to see the re-establishment of the traditions of making and playing of early keyboard instruments. His final collection covers the most important schools of harpsichords and clavichord building - Italian harpsichords and virginals from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; four harpsichords by members of the Ruckers family who worked in Antwerp in the seventeenth century; a mature example of French harpsichord building by Pascal Taskin, Paris 1769; a beautifully preserved English virginal by Stephen Keene and a North German harpsichord by J. A. Hass, Hamburg of 1764. English instruments from the eighteenth century are well represented and include a rare single-manual harpsichord by Thomas Hancock, London, 1720, and a sequence of spinets showing their evolution from the late seventeenth to late eighteenth centuries. There is also a large clavichord of 1763 also made by Hass, which is one of the finest examples of its type and which has exquisite baroque decoration.
Captain Raymond Anthony Russell (27th May 1922 – 17th March1964).
Raymond Russell conceived the idea of presenting most of his collection to a British university where it could become a live museum of restored instruments and a centre for the study of keyboard organology and performance practice. Professor Sidney Newman, Reid Professor of Music at the University from 1941-1970, took up Russell's proposals. Shortly after Russell's death in 1964, his mother, Mrs Gilbert Russell, presented the University with 19 instruments from her son's collection. Two of Russell's instruments which were not in the original gift were bought in the early 1970s - the 1755 marquetry Kirckman harpsichord - apparently his favourite instrument - and an exceptionally beautiful sounding and looking Goermans/Taskin harpsichord.