Annie Emma Allen was born on 1st
November c.1852; one of an extensive and well-known Pembrokeshire landowning
family. Her brothers included an eminent archaeologist, a County Court Judge
and another who emigrated to Shanghai. Annie however, was no less of an
adventurer and lived with at least two of her sisters at Cilrhiw, near
Her home, ‘a Georgian residence…on (the) Slebech estate’ was ‘greatly improved’ by her grandfather
Lancelot Bough Allen, and by the 1910s, Annie and her sister Rachel were
hosting community teas and ‘fundraising
bazaars’ in the house and gardens.
A devout Christian, Annie dedicated much of
her time and wealth to charitable pursuits from sending gifts to wounded
soldiers at Cottesmore Auxiliary Hospital during WWI to ‘(giving) the children lessons in sewing’ at Narberth Workhouse.
Such was their benevolence towards the workhouse ‘inmates’, the site of the
building is now known as ‘Allensbank’.
As well as having ‘entertained the (workhouse) girls to a tea party’ or ‘(holding) a service’ there, the Allen
sisters also took a pro-active approach to improving the day to day lives of
the poor. In December 1909, Kate Allen wrote to the Narberth Board of Guardians
to ‘draw (their) attention…to the fact
that the children in the Workhouse are suffering from an epidemic of whooping
cough, and that one child has been very seriously ill indeed…’ She
continues: ‘the other children are not
receiving proper attention. They have not had any regular outdoor exercise for
more than a month; their clothes are not tidy and they are not kept personally
clean’. Kate continued to use her influence to exert pressure on the
guardians writing: ‘To sum up, I feel
sure that the Guardians will see that it is their duty to take immediate steps
to ameliorate the condition of the children in the Narberth Workhouse, which is
at present deplorable’.
In her younger years Annie Allen was
fortunate to travel extensively. Her personal archive of watercolour paintings
provide a valuable insight into…….Annie also saw it as her Christian duty
to travel to Africa ‘under the Church
Missionary Society’. However, while there, she was ‘sent to assist at the hospital at Kampala…(where she) continued to
run the hospital until the arrival of a doctor a year later’. She also ‘opened a school and taught there for many
years’ and the ‘King of Toro was born
during her residence there and Miss Allen became his Godmother’ (Pembrokeshire
Herald & General Advertiser, 1909-10). Evidence suggests that Annie was
held in high regard by the people she met on her travels and that she and her
sisters were both practical and generous with their wealth.
Annie Allen died in December 1941, aged 89
years and her ethnographical collection is held in the archive at Narberth