Tuesday 31 December 2013

(98) Allen of Davenham Hall

In 1854, Peter Allen (1815-92) married the daughter of John Edward Taylor (d. 1844), the founder of the Manchester Guardian, and became involved in the management of the newspaper, eventually as partner with his brother-in-law, John Edward Taylor junior. About 1870 the two men bought the recently founded Manchester Evening News, and from 1879 the two papers shared the same offices.  Allen was part of Manchester's Liberal elite, and two of his sons went on to become Liberal MPs.  His eldest son, Russell Allen (1860-1927) succeeded his father in his newspaper interests.  When The Manchester Guardian was sold to the editor, C.P. Scott, in 1907, he took full control of the Manchester Evening News, which remained an independent newspaper until 1924, when he sold it to the company which Scott had established to operate the Guardian.  The merger laid the foundations of the present Guardian Media Group.

The Allens made considerable wealth from the Manchester newspapers, and in about 1909 Russell Allen bought Davenham Hall, an early 19th century neo-classical house; he also had a house in Beaumaris (Anglesey) which he used as a base for sailing.  After his death, Davenham Hall passed to his son, Peter Lewis Russell Allen (1899-1983), and was occupied by his three redoubtable but unmarried older sisters.  It was finally sold in 1979 after the last of them died.  After the Second World War, P.L.R. Allen himself occupied a series of houses in the Cotswolds, including Fosse House at Stow-on-the-Wold and Little Aston Mill at Bourton-on-the-Water.

Davenham Hall, Cheshire

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Davenham Hall in Cheshire was the home of the Holford family. John Holford fought for the Royalist cause in the Civil War and Richard Holford was taxed on six hearths at the Hearth Tax in 1664. His house was a timber-framed building known as Davenham Lodge, which remained in the Holford family until after the death of Allen Holford in 1771, when his son, another Allen Holford, sold it to his brother-in-law, Thomas Highlord Ravenscroft (d. 1795). Ravenscroft apparently rebuilt the house before his death, but there is little evidence for his work in the present building. The house was sold by Ravenscroft's trustees to a Liverpool slave merchant, William Harper (1749-1815), subject to his widow's life tenancy, which Harper bought out in about 1809, and passed at Harper's death to his daughter Anne (d. 1820) and son-in-law, John Hosken (later Harper) (d. 1865).

Davenham Hall from a 19th century engraving.
The present building seems to have been built by John Hosken Harper in about 1822. The six- by three-bay, two storey stuccoed brick main block has a slate roof; the east-facing entrance front is symmetrical, with a pediment and a wide two-bay porch of six freely-detailed Tuscan columns. The three-bay north side is extended by a long service wing. If there is any late 18th century work, it will be on the south side, but is now rather obscured by later additions. There is a small, stuccoed lodge, probably of the early 19th century, on the London road, with a bow and a pedimented door, which has been extended by the addition of similar but more simply-detailed pavilions in the late 20th century.

Davenham Hall today

For what is externally a rather plain and undemonstrative house, there is a surprisingly rich neo-classical and Grecian interior. The entrance hall has a boldly moulded ceiling with Grecian motifs and a severe black marble chimneypiece. To the left, the drawing room has more delicate plaster decoration in the Wyatt style and a chimneypiece with dancing figures. The best interior is the staircase hall with a shallow dome supporting a circular lantern and fan-shaped fluting on the pendentives. The staircase has an elegant wrought-iron balustrade, and rises to the first floor landing where there is a screen of four Doric columns with a correct and well-proportioned entablature.

Davenham Hall: first-floor landing in 1980. Image: Historic England

Davenham passed by marriage after 1872 to the France-Hayhursts of Bostock Hall, who sold in the 1890s to Christopher Kay (d. c.1907). It was sold again about 1909 to Russell Allen (1860-1927), the proprietor of the Manchester Evening News. When he died the house passed to his four redoubtable unmarried daughters, who remained in residence until the last of them, Miss Doris Evelyn Russell Allen, died in 1979. The house was then in a rather tired state, but it was restored and converted for use as a nursing home in 1980, a purpose it continues to serve; the outbuildings were converted in 2009 into a specialist unit for dementia patients.

Descent: John Holford (b. 1599); to son?, Richard Holford (fl. 1664)...Alexander Holford (d. 1759); to son, Allen Holford (d. 1771); to son, Allen Holford (d. 1788), who sold to his brother-in-law, Thomas Highlord Ravenscroft (d. 1795); sold by his trustees to William Harper of Liverpool (d. 1815), subject to his widow's life tenancy, which Harper bought out c.1809; to daughter Anne (d. 1820) and son-in-law, John Hosken (later Harper) (d. 1865); to son, William Hosken Harper (d. 1872); to nephew, Charles Hosken France-Hayhurst; sold after 1892 to Christopher Kay (d. c.1907); sold c.1909 to Russell Allen (1860-1927); to daughters, of whom Doris Evelyn Russell Allen (1889-1979) was the last survivor; sold 1980 and converted into a nursing home.

Allen family of Davenham Hall

Note: some of the descendants of Russell Allen have adopted the surname Russell-Allen, but it is not clear how consistently or officially this has been done.

Peter Allen (1815-92)
Allen, Peter (1815-92).  Son of John Allen (b. 1772) of Tiverton (Devon) and his wife Elizabeth Acland, born 7 May 1815.  Educated at Blundell's School, Tiverton.  Newspaper proprietor and publisher in Manchester; part-owner of Manchester Guardian and proprietor of the Manchester Evening News. He married, August 1854, Sophia Russell (d. 1868), daughter of John Edward Taylor, founder of the Manchester Guardian, and had issue:
(1) Russell Allen (1860-1927) (q.v.);
(2) Rt. Hon. Charles Peter Allen (1861-1930), born at Prestwich, 2 December 1861; educated at Rugby, University College, Oxford and Inner Temple (called to bar, 1888); journalist and foreign correspondent for Manchester Guardian; Liberal MP for Stroud (Glos), 1900-18; served WW1 as Major, 5th Battn, Gloucestershire Regiment; a Charity Commissioner, 1910; appointed to Privy Council, 1912; DL for Gloucestershire; married, 1880, Evelina, daughter of Alfred Barker of Constantinople and Elmfield, Esher (Surrey), and had issue one son and four daughters; died 18 September 1930; will proved 30 October 1930 (estate £132,325);
(3) John Edward Taylor Allen (1864-1919) of Holt House, Mobberley (Cheshire), born 11 September 1864; educated at Rugby; JP for Cheshire; died unmarried, 5 May 1919; will proved 30 July 1919 (estate £83,528);
(4) Arthur Acland Allen (1868-1939), born 11 August 1868; educated at Rugby and University College, Oxford; called to the bar, 1893; Liberal MP for Christchurch, 1906-10, Dumbartonshire 1910-18; member of London County Council, 1899-1913 (Deputy Chairman, 1908-09); Alderman, 1919-23; married, 31 July 1900, Gladys Hope, daughter of J. Douglas Walker KC and had issue three daughters; died 20 May 1939; will proved 22 July 1939 (estate £77,315);
(5) Sophia Mabel Allen (1859-96) of Margate (Kent), born 15 April 1859; died 12 September 1896; will proved 11 December 1896 (estate £8,133).
He lived at Overbrook, Kersal, Manchester.
He died 1 September 1892 and was buried at Prestwich, 5 September 1892.  His will was proved 30 December 1892 (estate £150,954).  His wife died 11 August 1868.

Allen, Russell (1860-1927), of Davenham Hall.  Eldest son of Peter Allen (1815-92) and his wife Sophia Russell, daughter of John Edward Taylor, born 11 May 1860.  Educated at Rugby.  Proprietor of the Manchester Evening News, which he inherited from his uncle in 1905.  JP and DL for Anglesey; High Sheriff of Anglesey.  He married, 3 March 1886, Blanche (1865-1949), daughter of Joseph Moseley of Cringle Hall, Manchester, and had issue:
(1) Monica Una Russell Allen (1886-1905); born 5 December 1886; died unmarried at Quiberville (France), 13 July 1905;
(2) Doris Evelyn Russell Allen (1889-1979), born 7 June 1889; died unmarried, 6 February 1979;
(3) John Edric Russell Allen (1890-1918), born 3 August 1890; educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1909; BA 1912); served WW1 in 16th Lancers; died of wounds, 8 April 1918; buried at St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen (France);
(4) Geraldine May Russell Allen (1893-1978), born 1 May 1893; OBE 1958 for political and public services in Cheshire; died unmarried, 2 July 1978;
(5) Margaret Diana Russell Allen (1896-1974), born 4 November 1896; author of children's books including Many Moons under the acronym Mard; died unmarried, 24 March 1974.
(6) Peter Lewis Russell Allen (1899-1983) (q.v.);
He purchased Davenham Hall in about 1909, and also had a house at Beaumaris on Anglesey.  After his death, Davenham Hall passed to his four unmarried daughters, and was sold in 1980 after the death of the last surviving daughter.
He died 23 March 1927 and was buried at Davenham, where there is a war memorial chapel formed by screens designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, 1929, in his memory.  His will was proved 13 March 1928 (estate £321,963).  His widow died 27 December 1949.  Her will was proved 29 March 1950 (estate £72,437).

Allen, Peter Lewis Russell (1899-1983) of Fosse House, Stow-on-the-Wold (Glos).  Only surviving son of Russell Allen (1860-1927) and his wife Blanche, daughter of Joseph Moseley of Cringle Hall, Manchester, born 31 August 1899.  Educated at Radley School. Master of The Cheshire Forest foxhounds, 1933-44.  He married, 1933, Margaret, daughter of Philip Greenwood of The First, Parkfield, Knutsford (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) John Peter Russell Allen (b. 1942), born January 1942;
(2) June Russell Allen (b. 1939), born July 1939;
(3) Rosemary Margaret Russell Allen (b. 1946), born September 1946.
He briefly lived at Fosse House, Stow-on-the-Wold (Glos) in the 1950s.
He died 2 July 1978 and was buried at Davenham.  His widow died 1 February 1988 and was buried at Davenham.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 25; D. & S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. 2, part 2, 1810, pp. 646, 845; Ormerod, History of Cheshire, 1819, pp. 126-7; The Admission Register of Manchester School, vol. 2, p. 263;

Location of archives

Allen, Charles Peter (1861-1930): correspondence, 1895-1913 [Warwick University Modern Records Centre, MSS.118]

Coat of arms

Gules, within two bars nebuly, as many mullets, in chief a mullet between two martlets and in base a martlet, all argent.

Revision and acknowledgements
This account was first published 31 December 2013 and was revised 6 June 2016.


  1. I am interested in the history of 562 London Road, Davenham. I have lived at this address since March 1984 and believe our cottage and our neighbours property were once part of the Davenham Hall estate. I understand these 2 properties were the living accommodation for the gardener and groom from Davenham Hall.

  2. As a child i lived at the lodge 511, London Rd, my dad raymond salisbury was gardener at the hall it was owned by two spinsters who were quakers we lived in the lodge from 1957 till 1960.


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