When Ralph Allen died in 1764 he was childless, his only son having died in infancy. The majority of his property passed to his wife, who died two years later, and then to Gertrude Warburton, wife of William Warburton, bishop of Gloucester, who was a daughter of one of Ralph Allen's sisters. However, Allen's liberality had continued beyond the grave: his will contained bequests of £60,000, which his executors were unable to pay from the cash and realisable securities in his estate. The Warburtons were obliged to rent out Prior Park to provide an increased income from which the bequests could be met over time, although they were able to return to the house before the bishop's death in 1779. Under Bishop Warburton's will, his library, which incorporated Ralph Allen's library, was to be sold in aid of Gloucester Infirmary, but was bought by one of his Trustees, Bishop Hurd of Worcester, and so Allen's books now form a core part of the Hurd Library at Hartlebury Castle in Worcestershire.
Mrs. Warburton married a second time, to the Rev. Martin Stafford Smith, but when she died in 1796 she bequeathed Prior Park to her first cousin once removed, George Edward Allen (1766-1850) of Bathampton Manor. He let it and in 1829 sold it to the Roman Catholic Bishop Peter Baines, who converted the house into a school and seminary; he also later rented Bathampton Manor as his own residence. George Allen was unmarried and had no children, so Bathampton passed to his nephew, Major Ralph Shuttleworth Allen (1817-87), who had fourteen children, several of whom emigrated to Canada and the United States. Two of them inherited Bathampton in turn, but in 1922 it was sold to Mrs. Price Davis (d. 1938), reputedly the last woman in Bath to keep a carriage and pair. After the Second World War the house became a residential care home, and it remains in use for this purpose. Prior Park continues to be a Roman Catholic boarding school.
Prior Park, Bath, Somerset
The house was built for Ralph Allen between about 1733 and 1750 as a palatial villa, and was intended incidentally to demonstrate the quality of the the stone from his nearby quarries of Combe Down and Bathampton Down. It stands on a spectacular site at the head of a landscaped combe with breathtaking views over the city of Bath, and was clearly intended to be seen from the town below.
|Prior Park (top, centre) commands the prospect over Bath in this view by James Ross. Image: University of Greenwich|
The house was designed originally by John Wood the elder and was intended to consist of a central block flanked on each side by a square pavilion with a long wing beyond, all connected by galleries and strung out along the crest of the combe on a canted plan which reflects the natural contour but which Wood rationalised as forming three sides of a duodecagon, a quarter of a mile in diameter. He was no doubt familiar with Palladio's illustration of a Roman theatre based on a circle inscribed within a twelve-sided figure, and his Essay towards a description of Bath describes the house as sitting on one of the hillside terraces, 'rising above one another, like the Stages between the Seats of a Roman Theatre', so the Palladian image may have been consciously in his mind.
|Colen Campbell's first design for Wanstead House (Essex) from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1715.|
The design of the central block is derived more directly from Colen Campbell's unbuilt first design for Wanstead House (Essex), which was published in Vitruvius Britannicus in 1715.
|Prior Park: the main block from below. The fall in the ground makes the basement storey disappear from view.|
Image: Prior Park College.
Wood's version is a tauter design, two bays shorter, with taller proportions and a deeper portico, but the Wanstead scheme is only followed on the north side; the south front has no basement because of the change of ground level, and is very plainly treated, with just an engaged six column centrepiece supporting a pediment to articulate the fifteen bay facade.
Work began with the construction of the west wing, which Wood originally intended to be a building using the Tuscan order and with projecting eaves and a pigeon loft, such as Palladio himself might have built as a pavilion to a villa on the Brenta; it was to house cattle, poultry and the stables. This concept was however completely changed in execution so that the wing could form a temporary home for Ralph Allen while the main house was building; Walker's engraving of 1752 (below) shows that as built, the range had unequal wings of six and seven bays either side of a three storey pavilion with a large Venetian window in its top storey and four pediments around the roof. The wing was completed by 1735 when Ralph Allen moved from the city centre and first gave his address as 'Widcomb'.
|Prior Park, as originally completed, from a drawing published in R.E.M. Peach, The life and times of Ralph Allen, 1895.|
The central block followed and was completed by 1741, but when work had progressed no further than the basement storey, Wood was dismissed after a quarrel with Allen over alterations to his designs by Allen's clerk of works, Richard Jones. Jones completed the central block and designed the east wing as a straightforward copy of the west wing. A splendid sweep of curved arcades connects the house with its pavilions.
|A 19th century engraving showing how the wings were expanded for Bishop Baines' school and seminary.|
The house has been much altered since it was completed. It was acquired in 1829 by Bishop Baines, Roman Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, who converted the east wing into a school and the west wing into a seminary, and heightened and enlarged both, employing a number of designers, including John Peniston & Son of Salisbury (east wing, 1831), H.E. Goodridge (west wing, 1834) and J.J. Scoles (church of St. Paul, 1844-82). These changes had the unfortunate effect of making the wings compete architecturally with the centre.
|Prior Park: east wing, as altered in the 1830s; photographed in 1986. Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Licenced under this Creative Commons licence.|
In 1836 fire destroyed most of the interiors of the central block. It was reconstructed with fittings from the late 18th century Hunstrete House, Marksbury (Somerset) including garden sculpture, chimneypieces, joinery, doors, plasterwork, and even the window-frames, to accommodate which the original sills were cut back. Only the east elevation retains its original windows with thick glazing bars. In 1991 the house was again badly damaged by fire, but the interior decoration has been reconstructed to the scheme of the 1830s, which was fortunately well recorded. Restoration work was completed in 1995. Only the chapel at the east end of the central block has survived largely to Wood's designs (although it was executed by Jones and the roof is a reconstruction after 1991): it is a double-height space articulated by Corinthian columns above and Ionic pilasters below, with a coffered apse and large reredos at the (ritual) east end and a two-storey gallery at the west end.
The remaining interiors date, in effect, from the 1830s. The entrance hall connects the north and south fronts, and is linked by a passage to the chapel. Above the hall is the Academy Hall, created in 1836, which again spans the width of the building. It has paired Corinthian pilasters and a coved and panelled ceiling with delicate plasterwork. The main staircase comes from Hunstrete House and was made originally by John Stephenson and William Toms. The former drawing room (now Library), in the north-west corner, has fluted Corinthian pilasters, a fine Siena marble chimneypiece with Ionic columns, and plasterwork with garlands and cornucopia. The house remains a Roman Catholic school.
|An engraving of 1752 showing the first, Rococo layout of the gardens and the wings of the house as first built.|
The gardens (now owned by the National Trust) were landscaped in three phases. The first was a Rococo scheme of c.1734-44, executed with advice from Alexander Pope; from this time date Mrs Allen's Grotto, lined with Cornish minerals, a serpentine lake with a small pedimented sham bridge, and a very early Gothick Revival building known as The Priory, designed by Richard Jones and built c.1740, which was originally the gardener's cottage. There was also originally an ogee-arched Gothic temple, derived from a plate in Batty Langley's Ancient Architecture of 1741-2 and described by Richard Pococke in 1754, which was moved in the early 20th century to the grounds of Rainbow Wood House nearby, where it survives.
|The Gothick Temple from Prior Park, now in the grounds of Rainbow Wood House nearby.|
In the second phase, about 1755, the gardens were extended downhill, a cascade was formed, and the lakes and Palladian Bridge were constructed: the bridge was constructed by Richard Jones and is an interpretation of a design by Palladio which had been used before at Wilton (1736-37) and Stowe (1738). It is not, however, a literal copy, and it seems unlikely that Jones was the architect responsible for this sophisticated interpretation. Ralph Allen was in correspondence with the Bath MP, William Pitt (the elder) about garden buildings, and Prof. Mowl has suggested that Pitt's nephew, Thomas Pitt, a gifted amateur architect, might have supplied the design, but this must remain a speculation. Finally, around the time of Allen's death in 1764, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was paid £60 for 'surveys and making plans about Prior Park', but it may well be that nothing was done to his designs because of Allen's death.
|Prior Park: the Palladian bridge built in 1755 by Richard Jones. Image: Matt Foster. Licenced under this Creative Commons licence.|
|Prior Park: looking through the Palladian bridge. Image: Stephen McKay per Wikimedia Commons|
Descent: Land sold 1728 to Ralph Allen (1693-1764) who built the house; to widow, Elizabeth Allen (d. 1767); to niece, Gertrude Tucker (d. 1796), wife of Rt Rev. William Warburton (1698-1779), Bishop of Gloucester and later of Rev. Martin Stafford Smith, who briefly leased the house in the 1770s; to cousin, George Edward Allen (1765-1850), who leased to his uncle, 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729-1803); who sold 1829 to Bishop Peter Augustine Baines (1786/7-1843).
Bathampton Manor, Somerset
|Thomas Robins' view of Bathampton, showing the manor centre right, with a prominent cupola and projecting bay windows. Image: Victoria & Albert Museum.|
A complex house, now consisting of two parallel ranges of building, each of several different periods. The front range appears to be substantially of the 17th century, as is evidenced by a blocked doorway, and a pencil sketch by the 18th century artist, Thomas Robins shows a range of similar dimensions with three projecting full-height bays.
|A 19th century engraving of the house flatters the regularity of the entrance front.|
The house was refronted in the mid 18th century, perhaps around 1754, when the church was remodelled for Ralph Allen by Richard Jones, his clerk of works at Prior Park. The regular but unusual spacing of the windows probably reflects the plan of the earlier building; the three windows in the centre are tightly grouped, and those in the side sections are also grouped together, though less tightly, suggesting that the blank areas either side of the centre correspond to the projecting bays shown in Robins' sketch. The main doorway has attached Doric columns and the window above Ionic columns, and the facade was formerly stuccoed which would have made it appear more regular. For much of its existence, the house was also hung about with great curtains of creeper.
|An engraved plan of the house and grounds in 1794, before the building of the Kennet & Avon Canal.|
The rear range is harder to date, but part of it may also belong to the Allen family's mid 18th century improvements; it has, however, been reduced in size since a block plan was drawn in 1794. Inside, there is a good 18th century staircase. The house is now a residential care home.
Descent: sold 1701 to John Holder; to daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1764), second wife of Ralph Allen (1694-1764); to brother, Philip Allen (1694-1765); to son, Philip Allen (1736-85?); to son, George Edward Allen (1766-1850), who rented to Bishop Peter Baines from 1825; to brother, Thomas Henry Allen (fl. 1850); to son, Maj. Ralph Shuttleworth Allen (1818-87); to son, Maj-Gen. Ralph Edward Allen (1846-1910); to brother, Henry Allen (1851-1928), who sold 1922 ?to Caroline Goddard Price Davis (1850-1938)...converted c.1947 into residential care home.
Allen family of Prior Park and Bathampton Manor
|Ralph Allen (1693-1764)|
(1.1) George Allen (b. & d. 1725), baptised 8 September 1725; died in infancy and was buried 9 December 1725.
He purchased Combe Down stone mines and the site of Prior Park from his brother-in-law in 1728; Prior Park was built c.1733-50. He purchased Bathampton Manor from his second wife's family in 1742 and also Claverton Manor in 1758. From 1750 he spent part of the summer every year at a house he had built in Weymouth (Dorset), now 2 and 2a Trinity Street. At his death Bathampton Manor passed to his brother Philip, and Prior Park and Claverton Manor to his niece Gertrude, wife of William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester and later of Rev. Martin Stafford Smith. Ralph Allen's library, with that of Bishop Warburton, were purchased in 1779 by Rt. Rev. Richard Hurd and now form the nucleus of the Hurd Library at Hartlebury Palace (Worcs).
He died 29 June 1764 and was buried 5 July 1764 at Claverton (Somerset). His will was proved 11 August 1764 and included bequests of £60,000, which his executors struggled to pay. His widow died 20 September 1766.
Allen, Philip (1694-1765), of Bathampton Manor. Son of Ralph Allen of St. Blazey (Cornwall), born 1694. Deputy Postmaster at Bath until his death in 1765. He married Jane (1704-67), youngest daughter of Philip Benett of Maperton (Somerset) and had issue:
(1) Philip Allen (1736-85) (q.v.);
(2) Ralph Allen (1737-77) of Bathampton Manor; barrister-at-law in Middle Temple; married, 14 January 1775, Mary (d. 1831), daughter and co-heiress of Henry Palmer of Wanlip and had issue three daughters, one born posthumously; died 30 August 1777; will proved 30 October 1777;
(3) Mary Allen (d. 1775); married, 10 June 1766, Cornwallis Maude (1729-1803), 1st Viscount Hawarden, and had issue one son and two daughters; died 8 October 1775.
He lived at Bathampton Manor, which his brother purchased in 1742. He was probably responsible for remodelling the house c.1754.
He died 30 October 1765 (some sources say 4 December 1765) and was buried at Bathampton, where he is commemorated by a monument designed by Thomas King & Sons of Bath. His wife died 14 April 1767.
Allen, Philip (1736-85), of Bathampton Manor. Elder son of Philip Allen (1694-1765) and his wife Jane, daughter of Philip Benett of Maperton (Somerset), born 10 October 1736. Appointed Comptroller of the Bye and Cross Road Letter Office, and one of the Surveyors to the Postmaster General, at the General Post Office, London, 1764. He married, 15 November 1763, Sarah Maria (d. 1819), daughter of Capt. James Carteret, and had issue:
(1) Philip Allen (1764-65), born 30 November 1764; died in infancy, 12 March 1765;
(2) George Edward Allen (1766-1850) (q.v.);
(3) Matilda Dorothea Allen (1767-1839), born 21 June 1767; died unmarried, 19 September 1839;
(4) Ralph Anthony Allen (1769-1813), born 19 November 1769; died 31 December 1813;
(5) James Carteret Allen (1771-91), born 5 April 1771; died unmarried, 15 April 1791;
(6) Marianna Allen (1772-1863), born 18 April 1772; died unmarried, 26 January 1863;
(7) Philip Allen (b. & d. 1774), born 19 July 1774; died in infancy;
(8) Henry Edmond Allen (1775-1829) (q.v.);
(9) Philip Allen (1778-83), born 8 May 1778; died young, 30 January 1781;
(10) Maria Jenetta Allen (1780-1866), born 11 April 1780; died unmarried, 14 June 1866.
He inherited the Bathampton Manor estate from his father in 1765.
He died 16 August 1785 and was buried 24 August 1785 in St Mary Abchurch, London.
Allen, George Edward (1766-1850), of Bathampton Manor. Eldest son of Philip Allen (1736-85) and his wife Sarah Maria Carteret, born 20 March 1766. Freeman of Bath and Governor of the Mineral Hospital there. He was unmarried and died without issue.
He inherited Bathampton Manor from his father in 1785, and the Prior Park estate from his cousin, Gertrude Smith, in 1796. He sold Prior Park in 1829, and at his death Bathampton passed to his nephew, Ralph Shuttleworth Allen.
He died 19 August 1850.
Allen, Henry Edmond (1775-1829). Youngest son of Philip Allen (1736-85) and his wife Sarah Maria Carteret, born 30 October 1775. He married, 22 October 1807, Fanny, daughter of Thomas Lloyd of Gray's Inn, and had issue:
(1) Fanny Allen (1808-23); born 23 October 1808; died unmarried at Geneva, 1823;
(2) Lt. Henry Edmond Allen (1810-37), born 10 May 1810; served in Royal Engineers; an amateur artist of some note; died unmarried, 22 February 1837 at Smyrna (Turkey) on his way to explore Central Asia;
(3) Mary Matilda Allen (1811-46), born 26 October 1811; died unmarried, 17 December 1846;
(4) Lt. Philip Aylmer Allen (1813-43), born 27 March 1813; served in the Royal Navy; died unmarried, 3 October 1843 at Buenos Aires (Argentina) as a result of a fall from a horse;
(5) Gertrude Marianna Allen (1814-93), born 4 May 1814; married, May 1839, Wilson Gun of Rattoo (Kerry) and had issue; died December 1893.
(6) Maj. Ralph Shuttleworth Allen (1817-87) (q.v.).
He died on 19 August 1829 at Celigny, Geneva.
Allen, Maj. Ralph Shuttleworth (1817-87) of Bathampton Manor. Youngest son of Thomas Henry Allen (fl. 1850) and his wife Fanny, daughter of Thomas Lloyd, born 17 June 1817. Educated at Woolwich; Captain in Royal Artillery and Major in Royal Cornwall & Devon Miners Artillery; Conservative MP for East Somerset, 1868-79; DL and JP for Somerset; Chairman of Bath Board of Guardians. He married 1st, 7 September 1844, Anne Elizabeth (1823-62), daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st bt. of Bush Hill, and 2nd, 1 November 1864, Etheldreda Augusta (c.1839-96), daughter of John Roy Allen of Lyngford House (Somerset), and had issue:
(1.1) Ralph Edward Allen (1846-1910) (q.v.);
(1.2) George Cunard Allen (1848-1902), born 12 June 1848; educated at Eton; partner in Bush & Jevons, merchants, of New York; died unmarried in New York, 17 May 1902;
(1.3) Fanny Mary Allen (1850-1938), born 15 July 1850; died unmarried, 6 February 1938;
(1.4) Henry Allen (1851-1928) (q.v.);
(1.5) Philip Allen (1853-1903), born 25 July 1853; educated at Eton; died unmarried, 6 November 1903 in New York;
(2.1) Charles Shuttleworth Allen (b. 1868); commissioned as 2nd Lt. in King's Own Royal Lancashire Regt., 1888;
(2.2) Edward Allen (b. 1870); emigrated to Canada, 1887; married Grace Muir and had issue two sons and one daughter;
(2.3) Gertrude Ethel Allen (1872-1912); died unmarried, 1912;
(2.4) Mabel Allen (b. 1874); died unmarried;
(2.5) Robert Allen (1876-1914); died 19 September 1914;
(2.6) Florence Allen (1878-1948); married, July 1895, George Leslie Leith-Hay (1871-1925) and had issue one son and two daughters; died 24 September 1948;
(2.7) Frederick Allen (b. 1879), born 10 January 1879;
(2.8) Lillian Allen (b. 1880); died unmarried
(2.9) William Allen (b. 1882).
He inherited Bathampton Manor from his uncle in 1850.
He died 6 February 1887; grant of administration issued 3 March 1887 (estate £12,217). His first wife died 13 October 1862. His widow died 2 October 1896.
Allen, Maj-Gen. Ralph Edward (1846-1910) of Bathampton Manor. Eldest son of Maj. Ralph Shuttleworth Allen (1818-87) and his first wife, Annie Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st bt., born 23 February 1846. Educated at Eton. Served in East Yorkshire Regiment (Bechuanaland Expedition, 1884-85; South African War, 1899-1901); Adjutant General at HQ, 1897-99; JP for Somerset; awarded CB. He was unmarried and died without issue.
He inherited Bathampton Manor from his father in 1887. At his death it passed to his younger brother, Henry.
He died at Luxor (Egypt), 23 February 1910.
Allen, Henry (1851-1928), of Bathampton Manor. Third son of Maj. Ralph Shuttleworth Allen (1818-87) and his first wife, Annie Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st bt., born 24 December 1851. Educated at Eton and Frankfurt University. A co-founder of the Bleachers Association Ltd. He married, 5 March 1892, Mabel, youngest daughter of Lt-Col. Edward Crompton Potter of Dinting Lodge, and had issue:
(1) Cmdr. Ralph Henry Allen (1892-1962); born 12 December 1892; educated at Royal Naval Colleges, Osborne and Dartmouth; served in Royal Navy; married, 16 February 1921, Stella Mildred, daughter of William Edward Spencer Hitchcock-Spencer of St. Margaret's, Hitchin (Herts) and had issue one son and two daughters; died 23 January 1962;
(2) Reginald Cunard Allen (1895-1963), born 27 June 1895; served as Lieutenant in Royal Flying Corps in WW1; married, 30 March 1933, Sonia Louise, youngest daughter of Thomas William Watson of Sydney (Australia) and had issue one son; died 20 August 1963; will proved 5 December 1963 (estate £39,657).
He lived at Firwood Hall, Bolton le Moors (Lancs) and inherited Bathampton Manor from his elder brother in 1910, but sold it in 1922.
He died 21 April 1928.
Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 24 and 1965, pp. 9-10; T. Mowl & B. Earnshaw, John Wood - architect of obsession, 1988, pp. 101-18; P. Gilbert, This restless prelate, 2006, pp. 55-57; T. Mowl & M. Mako, The historic gardens of Somerset, 2010, pp. 93-99; A. Foyle & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Somerset - North and Bristol, 2011, pp. 200-04, 212; http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/ralph-allen-by-marie-louise-jensen.html; http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/386; http://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/09/ralph-allen-weymouths-first-georgian.html.
Location of archives
Allen, Ralph, of Prior Park (1693-1764): accounts, correspondence, estate map and papers, 1712-62 (Bath Central Library); estate survey and map, 1737-61 (Bath Record Office)
Allen, Maj-Gen. Ralph Edward (1846-1910): diaries, 1899-1910 (National Army Museum, Templer Study Centre 8401/68)
Coat of arms
Revised 29th December 2014.