Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Allen, George

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Allen, George

George Allen [media]was born in London on 23 November 1800, the second son of Richard Allen, physician, and his second wife Mary. Following his father's death, his mother wed Thomas Collicott in 1809.

Collicott was convicted of fraud over revenue stamps and was transported to New South Wales on the Earl Spencer in October 1813. Mary applied for assistance to join her husband and arrived in Sydney with five children, including George, on the Mary Ann in January 1816.

The colony's first solicitor

Mary Collicott arrived in the colony with a letter of introduction to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who received her kindly and arranged for George Allen to be articled to the government solicitor, WH Moore, and, following Moore's suspension, to his successor Frederick Garling.

He was admitted as a solicitor on 24 July 1822, the first to receive his training in New South Wales. He established himself initially on the corner of George and Hunter streets, later in Macquarie Street, and from 1825 in Elizabeth Street.

Spiritual and family life

George Allen was intensely religious, joining the Methodist Society in 1821. He played a significant role in Sydney's Methodist community and the Temperance Society.

Allen [media]married Jane, daughter of Thomas and Jane Bowden, in Sydney on 24 July 1823. Of their 14 children, five sons and five daughters survived. By 1831, Allen was the owner of three Sydney houses as well as a 30-acre (12-hectare) estate at Botany Bay. Toxteth Park in Glebe was a 96-acre (38.8-hectare) estate where the family lived until the death of the patriarch.

Allen's son, George Wigram Allen, joined the business in 1847, becoming his father's partner and successor.

A model citizen

In addition to conducting his legal practice, Allen was the founding director and solicitor of the Gaslight Company in 1836, and was later solicitor, director and president of the Savings Bank of New South Wales.

Allen was elected at the foundation of Sydney City Council for Bourke Ward on 1 November 1842 and presided over the first meeting of council on 9 November 1842. He served until 31 December 1853 when the council was dismissed and the city was placed under the administration of a three-member commission. Allen was mayor from November 1844 to November 1845.

George Allen was appointed by Governor Gipps as a non-elected member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 28 July 1845 to 29 February 1856. He was a member of the newly constituted Legislative Council from 22 May 1856 to 13 May 1861 and 3 September 1861 to 3 November 1877. He was Chairman of Committees 4 June 1856–13 May 1861 and 3 Sep 1861–15 January 1873. Allen was appointed for life on 24 June 1861 but was forced by failing eyesight to resign in 1873.

Allen also played a significant role in education as the founder of the Sydney Free Grammar School in 1825 and later a trustee of the Sydney College. He was a member of the Denominational Board from 1848 to 1860, the Council of Education from its foundation in 1867 and of the University of Sydney Senate in 1859.

A philanthropist with a strong sense of duty, he was honorary secretary of the Benevolent Society for many years.

Allen's legacy

Allen died at his Toxteth Estate on 3 November 1877 and was buried at the old Wesleyan Cemetery at Rookwood. Upon his death, the Sydney Morning Herald referred to him as 'one of the foremost public citizens, who overcame the temptation of successful men to live a life of easy self-indulgence'.

Allen's legal firm is recognised as the oldest legal firm in Australia, known from 1894 as Allen Allen & Hemsley and now part of international firm Allens Arthur Robinson.

The Toxteth Estate [media]has long since been subdivided for inner-city housing. The name survives in the popular Toxteth Hotel in Glebe Point Road, the type of establishment so loathed by the pious Wesleyan.


Charles H Bertie, The early history of the Sydney Municipal Council: with an account of the town halls, Sydney Municipal Council, Sydney, 1911

Norman Cowper and Vivienne Parsons, 'Allen, George (1800–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 1, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1966, pp 5–7

Shirley Fitzgerald, Sydney 1842–1992, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1992

Max Solling and Peter Reynolds, Leichhardt: on the margins of the city: a social history of Leichhardt and the former municipalities of Annandale, Balmain and Glebe, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards NSW, 1997