Wednesday 1 January 2014

(99) Allen of Evenley Hall and Achamore House, Gigha

Allen of Evenley
William Allen (c.1823-1905), the son of a Wallsend shipowner, made a substantial fortune from the manufacture of alkalis, and retired in his 50s to a house in Bournemouth.  In 1887 he purchased Evenley Hall in Northamptonshire, where he became a JP.  Tragically, in 1897 the house was badly damaged by fire, but he reconstructed it, installing Jacobean-style interiors which are not in keeping with the Georgian exterior.  Both his sons were educated at Cambridge, but whereas the elder initially pursued a career in engineering, the younger took up farming, and it was to the latter, William Henry Allen (1870-1936) that Evenley was subsequently bequeathed.  His son, Anthony William Allen (1912-2003), sold Evenley Hall to the children's charity NCH in 1941. 

William Allen's elder son, John Allen, bought Brackley House, a large Jacobean-style house in the town at Brackley, in the late 19th century, and lived there for the rest of his life.  In 1917 he also bought the island of Gigha in Argyllshire, which brought with it another large house, Achamore House.  He may have had in mind dividing these properties between his two sons, and the elder, John William Allen, was already described as 'of Gigha' in the 1930s, but in the event J.W. Allen died a few months before his father, and Gigha was sold later that year.  It has not been possible to establish when Brackley House was sold, but it may have been during the Second World War; it was later used as Council offices and a hotel, and has now been divided into flats.
Brackley House, Brackley: now divided into flats.

Evenley Hall, Northamptonshire

Evenley Hall: the north front overlooking the park

A Palladian house built c.1740 for Francis Bassett, which has undergone many changes.  The original main facade to the north survives, overlooking the park.  It has five bays and two storeys above a rather high basement, which it seems possible has been exposed by lowering the ground level around the house at a later date.  The first floor has a three bay centrepiece of unfluted Ionic columns on the upper storey supporting a pediment, and the first floor windows have alternating triangular and segmental pediments.  A later porch at ground level has replaced the original staircase to the front door. At the rear are two unusual semicircular staircase turrets and a plain Venetian window, somewhat Vanbrughian in feel. Two pavilions, originally detached, flank the main block in line with the rear wall and form a sort of courtyard to the rear of the main building.  Facing the house across this is a simple stable block, with a cupola and a central triangular pediment.

Evenley Hall: aerial view from south-west showing the house before recent restoration and reduction.
Image: Jerena Beasley

In 1872 Alfred Waterhouse was called in to alter the interior, but his work was almost totally lost in a devastating fire in 1897.  When the house was reconstructed, the interiors were made Jacobethan, and a new grand hall was created in the centre of the house with a wide sweeping stair leading up to the first floor. All the main interiors now date from the post-fire reconstruction, and have ceilings decorated in a restrained Jacobean style.

Evenley Hall: entrance hall and staircase, as redecorated after 2001.

Evenley Hall: drawing room as redecorated after 2001.
The house was was used as a school and children's home between 1947 and 2001, but was then restored and redecorated in Georgian style by Stephen Oliver for Christopher Wightman and his wife, Emma.  The pavilion blocks, which had been Victorianised, have been reduced to their original footprints, and given more appropriate roofs; a new entrance has been made connecting these to the main block; and the Victorian plate glass windows have been replaced by multi-pane sashes.

Descent: Francis Basset (d. 1769); to son, Sir Francis Basset, Baron de Dunstanville (1757-1835); sold c.1783 to George Rush; sold 1790 to Herbert Gwynne Browne; to daughter, Georgina, wife of Pryce Edwards and later of The Hon. Philip Sydney Pierrepont (1786-1864); he sold 1887 to William Allen (d. 1905); to son, William Henry Allen (1870-1936); to son, Anthony William Allen (b. 1912), who sold 1941 to National Children's Home, which leased 1996 to Shaftesbury Society and sold 2001 to Christopher & Emma Wightman; sold 2012 to Mr & Mrs R. Hockey.

Achamore House, Isle of Gigha, Argyllshire

Achamore House, Gigha, 2009.  Image: Mary Kingsley
In origin, Achamore is a late 18th century house of the McNeills, remodelled for William Scarlett, in Scots baronial style by John Honeyman in 1882-84.  After a fire in 1896 Honeyman restored the house again without its top storey, and introduced some free Classical elements to the design. C.R. Mackintosh was in his office at this time, and may have designed some of the details.  

Achamore House, Gigha: the dining room from sale particulars of 1911.

Achamore House, Gigha: the drawing room from sale particulars of 1911.

When the house was advertised for sale in 1911, it had a number of Arts & Crafts interiors showing Mackintosh influence, but most of these details have since disappeared. The house is now most famous for the woodland garden created by Col. Sir James Horlick 1945-72.  Since his death, it has changed hands a number of times, and when the Isle of Gigha Trust bought the island in 2002 on behalf of the residents, the house was sold on to recover part of the purchase price.  As a result the house and gardens are now in separate ownership.

Descent: sold by Macneills in 1856 to James Williams Scarlett (d. 1890); given to son, Lt-Col. William James Scarlett (d. 1888); to son, W.J. Yorke Scarlett (1872-1954), who sold 1919 to Maj. John Allen (d. 1937); sold 1937 to Richard & Elain Harmer; to her brother, Somerset de Chair; who sold 1944 to Col. Sir James Horlick; sold after his death 1973 to James Landale; sold 1989 to Malcolm Potier; sold to Holt family; sold 2002 to Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust, which sold the house only in 2004 to Don Dennis; at the time of writing the house is again for sale.

Allen family of Evenley Hall

Allen, William (c.1823-1905), of Evenley Hall.  Son of John Allen (b. c.1791) of Wallsend, shipowner, and his wife Mary, born about 1823. Alkali manufacturer at Wallsend-on-Tyne. JP for Northamptonshire.  He married, 25 November 1865, Ellen Moulson (d. 1906), daughter of James Lownds of Newcastle-on-Tyne and had issue:
(1) John Allen (1869-1937) of Brackley House (q.v.);
(2) William Henry Allen (1870-1936) of Evenley Hall (q.v.).
He lived at Wallsend and on his retirement in the 1870s moved to Bournemouth; he later purchased the Evenley Hall estate in 1887, and restored it after a fire in 1897.
He died 10 January 1905; his will was proved 1 March 1905 (estate £370,267).  His widow died 28 February 1906; her will was proved 4 April 1906 (estate £3,881).

Allen, John (1869-1937), of Brackley House and Achamore House, Gigha.  Elder son of William Allen (d. 1905) and his wife Ellen Moulson, daughter of James Lownds of Newcastle-on-Tyne, born at Wallsend-on-Tyne, 29 January 1869; educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1892); served in Duke of Edinburgh's Own Royal Garrison Artillery, Edinburgh and in WW1 as Temp. Major in Royal Garrison Artillery; JP for Northamptonshire; High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, 1925.  He married 1st, 21 September 1893, Alice Mabel (d. 1917), daughter of Beville Ramsey of Croughton Park (Northants) and 2nd, 15 April 1924, Olive Beatrice, elder daughter of Capt. Charles Edwin James RN, and had issue:
(1.1) Alice Muriel Allen (b. 1895), born 25 February 1895;
(1.2) Helen Mabel Allen (c.1897-1921); born 1897; married, 1919, Capt. the Hon. Arthur Lionel Ochoncar Forbes-Sempill; died 18 June 1921; will proved 13 September 1921 (estate £742);
(1.3) John William Allen (1900-37), of Gigha (Argylls); died unmarried, 4 February 1937; will proved 6 April 1937 (estate £2,310);
(1.4) Edward Henry Allen (b. 1907), born 7 September 1907.
He purchased Brackley House (Northants), a Jacobean-style house in Brackley town built for the Cartwrights of Aynho in 1875.  He purchased the Island of Gigha and Achamore House in 1917.
He died 19 May 1937; his will was proved 20 July 1937 (estate £70,873).  His wife died 29 April 1917; her will was proved 24 July 1918 (estate £2,585).

Allen, William Henry (1870-1936), of Evenley Hall.  Younger son of William Allen (d. 1905) and his wife Ellen Moulson, daughter of James Lownds of Newcastle-on-Tyne, born at Wallsend-on-Tyne, 20 August 1870.  Educated at Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester; Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1892; BA 1895; MA 1903) and Inner Temple (admitted 1896; called to bar, 1899); barrister at law but never practised and had a farm at Totland (Hants) before inheriting the Evenley estate; served as Lt., Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, 1889-97 and Captain, Duke of Edinburgh's Own Royal Garrison Artillery, Edinburgh, 1897-1905, and in WW1 as Temp. Major in Royal Garrison Artillery; JP for Northamptonshire; High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, 1930.  He married, 21 June 1910, Florence Louisa (d. 1944), daughter of Albert Frederick Style of Boxley House (Kent) and widow of C.J. Stratton of Bletchingdon (Oxon), and had issue:
(1) Anthony William Allen (1912-2003) (q.v.).
He inherited Evenley Hall from his father in 1905.
He died 13 December 1936. His will was proved 11 March 1937 (estate £210,682).  His widow died 18 February 1944; her will was proved 5 June 1944 (estate £12,195).

Allen, Anthony William (1912-2003), of Evenley Hall.  Only son of William Henry Allen (1870-1936) of Evenley Hall and his wife Florence Louisa, daughter of Albert Frederick Style of Boxley House (Kent) and widow of C.J. Stratton of Bletchingdon (Oxon), born 22 December 1912. Educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge (BA 1934).  He married, 22 September 1937, Mary, daughter of Maj. Arthur Dunbar Whatman of Walsham Hall, Walsham-le-Willows, and had issue:
(1) John Henry Anthony Allen (b. 1939) of Lane End House, Broadhembury (Devon), born 18 August 1939.
He inherited Evenley Hall from his father in 1936 but sold it to the National Childrens Home in 1941.
He died in the last quarter of 2003.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 26; B. Bailey, Sir N. Pevsner & B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Northamptonshire, 2013, pp. 263-64;

Location of archives

None known.

Coat of arms

Per fesse, gules and argent, in chief a cross pattee between two lions' heads erased, or, and in base three pellets sable.


  1. Hello, my grandmother, who turned 90 this week, worked in Evenley Hall as a sister in 1948. I've been showing her the blogs on the internet today and it brought back so many memories for her! We'd love to hear from anyone who was there at that time.

  2. Herbert Gwynne Browne, who bought Evenley Hall (historically known as Imley) in 1790 was born circa 1763 and died possibly in 1807. His only daughter and heiress Georgiana/Georgina in 1810 carried it in marriage to the Hon. Philip Sydney Pierrepont, 5th son of Charles, 1st Earl Manvers.

    In some of the marriage notices, Herbert is described as being of Imley Park, Merionethshire, Wales. This may be a conflation of the residence of Georgina's first husband and of her late father's.

    In the Rothschild gallery at Waddesdon Manor there is a Gainsborogh portrait of 'Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas'. The painting passed by descent to the sitter's daughter Georgina Browne Pierrepont (d.1872) and son-in-law Hon. Philip Pierrepont (d.1864).

    So, it would appear that Herbert's wife, and Georgina's mother, was Frances Browne, nee Douglas. It is possible that he was her second husband. But who was John Douglas?

  3. I used to live in Evenley hall Brackley from 1966 until I moved in the early 70s .where I always used to go back see old friends and how it changed. I still look it up every now and then. Was the best Tim of my life


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