I began “The Allen Project” in 2016 with the aim of sharing information about the Allen family of Colwall, England and its many branches. My late grandmother was born in Colwall in 1917, and all her male-line ancestors from the 17th century onward were born in the same village. Do you have ancestors from Colwall? Does your family link with the Allen family? Whether they do or not, feel free to contribute by posting a reply on this page or contact the author to share family memories and discoveries.
Where is Colwall?
This small village is nestled on the western side of the Malvern hills, on the fringes between the counties of Hereford and Worcester. Its geographical location and the constant changes in county boundaries over the centuries has often meant Colwall shares close ties with the nearby town of Malvern, in the county of Worcestershire. The village itself is divided into four areas: Colwall proper, Colwall Green, Colwall Stone and Upper Colwall – the latter famous for being the site of the Wyche Cutting and the British Camp).
Where do the Allens come from?
It’s difficult to know where the Allen family comes from, but as far as I have been able to prove, they were already living in Colwall as early as the mid-1670’s. The family may have belonged to the local gentry -untitled landowners- as my first known ancestor Richard Colwall is described on one of his sons’ gravestone as a gentleman. Over the centuries my family branched off into different lines and, through marriage, became connected to other local families (the Pitts, the Symonds, the Webbs, the Hoopers, the Rodways…). Their descendants can be counted in their hundreds if not thousands today, and relatives with Allen blood can be found as far away as the United States, Australia, Spain and Belgium.
My Allen line
My direct relationship to my first ancestor on the Allen line, Richard Allen (born circa 1651, possibly in Colwall) covers ten generations, as can be seen on the chart (right) from him to my own great-grandfather. Richard Allen’s origins are, as yet, obscure, but one of his sons is described as a “Gentleman” on the latter’s grave headstone, so Richard’s social standing may well have been similar. Little is known about Richard’s personal life, other than he married a woman called Comfort Godsall. They became the parents of, at least, seven children. Richard’s will was probated in Colwall on 24 May 1716, implying he had passed away by then. His widow survived him by thirteen years.
Richard’s son, also called Richard, seems to have spent all his life in Colwall, where he married and afthered, that we know of, just one son. He died at the ripe old age of 80, having survived his wife by one year.
William, Richard Allen Jr’s only son, appears to have earned a living as a cordwainer, and lived in Evendine, a hamlet of Colwall. His marriage to Elizabeth Symonds produced seven children (two of whom married two of their Allen second cousins). William Allen died by 1804, when his will was probated.
The latter’s son, Thomas Allen, was a well-to-do farmer who lived in Evendine. His marriage, which took place when he was about forty, resulted in the births of 10 children. One of them, Edward, was an agricultural labourer and lived in Colwall throughout the 78 years of his life. His marriage to a local Colwallian of the Rodway family left four children, three of whom survived.
The eldest, John Allen (d. 1917) was the first of my family to move to Upper Colwall, before finally settling in Kings Norton, Birmingham. His son, William John, moved back to Upper Colwall around the time of his marriage, and owned a row of villas and cottages on Beacon Road that are still standing today.
Apart from finding out more about other descendants of the Allens, my ambition is now to look for Richard Allen’s ancestry. Was he a Colwallian, or was he born elsewhere? What were his family origins? Did they really belong to the landed gentry? Perhaps his last will and testament will hold further clues…