Annie Allen

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 Narberth.

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 Museum.

Categories: Education

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