W.H. Allen, artist

Paintings of Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


W.H. Allen painting, Tory, Bradford on Avon

Tory, Bradford on Avon, with W.H. Allen’s house


William Herbert Allen (1863-1943) was a prolific artist in watercolour and drawing and Director the Farnham School of Art in Surrey.

He owned a house on Tory, Bradford on Avon from 1917 until his death and painted many pictures of Bradford and its surrounding area.

Allen was born in West Brompton, Kensington, London in 1863, the son of William Henry Allen, who had recently moved to London to manage the Great Northern Wharf at Dowgate in the City. The family came from Alton in Hampshire, where his mother Frances Maria Stevens, a Quaker, had been a teacher at the British School in Normandy Street. He was educated at St Thomas’ School, Charterhouse until 1878, when the family moved to New Forest Hill in South London.

School was followed by a three-year apprenticeship at the Royal School of Woodcarving in South Kensington, but he spent only one year as a woodcarver after qualifying in 1882, before a short period as a clerk in a firm of solicitors in the City. In 1884 he gained an appointment at the Royal College of Art, where he became infected by the Arts & Crafts Movement, through its Director Thomas Armstrong (1835-1911).
In 1888 he became Master of the Sydenham Art School and in the following year was appointed Master at the School of Art at Farnham in Surrey, of which he eventually was made Director and remained there until his retirement in 1927. In 1905 he married Adelaide Maria Sothern, a teacher at Farnham Girls’ Grammar School.
While living in Farnham he painted scenes of country life in the Surrey-Hampshire borders around the villages of Binsted, Tilford, Eashing, Waverley and Gilbert White’s Selborne. He also travelled in Northern France, Switzerland and in Italy and was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum to make models of the interiors of Italian buildings.
In 1917 the Allens bought number 34 at the top end of Tory in Bradford, near the gate of St Mary’s chapel, from Mrs Mabel Jordan for £150. This was presumably as a holiday home, as Allen was still living and working in Farnham at the time.
On his death in 1943 the Allens still possessed the house, but were living at Deptford in the Wylye valley, where they had moved from Farnham in 1932 and they still owned his family home in Forest Hill.
Allen died in 1943 and is buried in Salisbury. He bequeathed a large collection of his work, watercolours, oils and drawings, to the Curtis Museum in his family’s home town of Alton. Nearer at hand there are also some of Allen’s paintings of Wiltshire in the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, including Bradford subjects, several of which were published in the illustrated version of W.H. Hudson’s book “A shepherd’s life” in 1987.

Bradford on Avon Museum possesses photographic copies of a number of Allen’s paintings and drawings of the town and some localities in its neighbourhood which were purchased from Hampshire County Council.

We are grateful to Hampshire County Council for permission to reproduce the images here; copyright belongs to the council. They were provided by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

See also the Wikipedia entry about him