Ralph Allen (1693 – 29 June 1764) was an entrepreneur and
philanthropist, and was notable for his reforms to the British postal
Allen was born in
Cornwall but moved to Bath to work in the post
office becoming the postmaster at the age of 19. He made the system
more efficient and took over contracts for the mail system to cover
England to the borders of Scotland and into South Wales. He also
bought the initial local stone mines from his postal profits and had
Prior Park built as his house to show off the versatility of the local
Bath stone, using the old post office as his town house. With the
John Wood, the Elder
John Wood, the Elder the stone he mined was used in the
building work for the development of the Georgian city. However the
mines did not consistently make a profit and Allen subsidised them
from his postal profits.
After his death he was buried in a pyramid-topped tomb in Claverton
churchyard. He is commemorated in the names of streets and schools in
the city of Bath and was the model for
Squire Allworthy in the novel
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding.
1 Early life
2 Involvement in the postal system
3 Quarrying of Bath Stone
6 See also
8 External links
Allen was baptised at
St Columb Major
St Columb Major in
Cornwall on 24 July 1693. As
a teenager he worked at the Post Office. He moved in 1710 to Bath,
where he became a post office clerk, and at the age of 19, in 1712,
Postmaster of Bath. In 1742 he was elected Mayor of
Involvement in the postal system
At the age of 27 Allen took control of the Cross and Bye Posts in the
South West under a seven-year contract with the General Post Office,
although he had no official title. At the end of this period he had
not made a profit, only breaking even. But he had the courage to
continue – with breathtaking success.
Over the next few years he reformed the postal service. He realised
that post boys were delivering items of mail along their route without
them being declared and that this was lost profit. He introduced a
"signed for system" that prevented the malpractice. He also
improved efficiency by not requiring mail to go via London.
Ralph Allen's reputation grew and he took over more and more of the
English postal system, signing contracts every seven years until he
died aged 71. It is estimated that he saved the Post Office
£1,500,000 over a 40-year period. He won the patronage of General
Wade in 1715, when he disclosed details of a Jacobite uprising in
Quarrying of Bath Stone
With the arrival of John Wood in Bath, Allen used the wealth gained
from his postal reforms to acquire the stone quarries at Combe Down
and Bathampton Down Mines. Hitherto, the quarry masons had
always hewn stone roughly providing blocks of varying size. The
resulting uneven surface is known as "rubble" and buildings of this
type – built during the Stuart period – are visible
throughout the older parts of Bath.
The distinctive honey-coloured Bath Stone, used to build the Georgian
city, made Allen a second fortune. The building in Lilliput Alley,
Bath (now North Parade Passage), which he used as a post office,
became his Town House and in 1727 he refronted the southern rubble
wall, extended the house to the north and added a whole new
storey. John Wood the Elder refers to this in his "Essay towards
the future of Bath". Allen was extremely astute at marketing the
Bath Stone and erected an elaborately ornate building a
few feet to the north of his house to demonstrate its qualities. The
extension (as Wood refers to it) has become known as "Ralph Allen's
Town House" though whether it was designed by Wood is unproven and
many local historians consider it unlikely. Allen
continued to live there until 1745, when he moved to Prior Park, and
the townhouse became his offices.
Prior Park House, home of Ralph Allen
Allen had the Palladian mansion
Prior Park built for himself (1742) on
a hill overlooking the city, "To see all Bath, and for all Bath to
see". He gave money and the stone for the building of the Mineral
Water Hospital in 1738.
Allen had a summer home built in the English coastal town of Weymouth
in Dorset, overlooking the harbour at number 2 Trinity street,
opposite the Customs house. There is a plaque on the house to
commemorate Allen. His
Bath stone was used to build the Georgian style
buildings in old Weymouth.
Ralph Allen is buried in a pyramid-topped tomb in Claverton
churchyard, on the outskirts of Bath, which is the subject of a
fundraising campaign to pay for its badly-needed renovation.
His name is commemorated in Bath in
Ralph Allen Drive which runs past
his former home at Prior Park. Now a busy road from
Combe Down village
to Bath city centre, this was originally the route by which the stone
from his quarries at
Combe Down was sent on wooden sledges down to the
River Avon. He is also remembered in
Ralph Allen School, one of the
city's state secondary schools.
Prior Park College, a private
school for 11- to 18-year-olds, is housed in Allen's former home and
incorporates a boys' boarding house named Allen House.
Prior Park Landscape Garden and Palladian bridge are cared for by
the National Trust, who brought the garden back from dereliction in
Ralph Allen CornerStone in
Combe Down village opened in the autumn
of 2013. This houses the archives of the
Combe Down Heritage Society
and provides a community hub and information centre as part of the
legacy of the project to infill the original stone mines underneath
Henry Fielding used Allen as the model for
Squire Allworthy in the
novel Tom Jones.
Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National
Biography's article about Ralph Allen.
Boyce, B. (1967). The benevolent man: a life of
Ralph Allen of
Peach, R.E.M. (1895). The life and times of Ralph Allen.
Hopkins, A.E. (ed.) (1960) Ralph Allen's own narrative, 1720–1761
Erskine-Hill, Howard (1975). 'Low-Born Allen': Ralph Allen
(1693–1764) in: The Social Milieu of Alexander Pope.
Davis, S. (1985). Ralph Allen: benefactor and postal reformer. [Bath
Postal Museum booklet].
Bath Postal Museum
^ Staff, Frank (1966). The Penny Post, 1680–1918, p. 57. London:
^ a b c d "
Ralph Allen Biography". Bath Postal Museum. Retrieved 12
^ "Ralph Allen". St Mary the Virgin, Claverton. Retrieved 20 January
^ "Ralph Allen's Postal Contract". A History of the World. BBC.
Retrieved 20 January 2018.
Ralph Allen (1693-1764)". Royal Mail. Retrieved 20 January
Ralph Allen of Prior Park". National Trust. Retrieved 20 January
^ "Ralph Allen". Jane Austen Centre. Retrieved 12 September
^ a b "Ralph Allen". Bath UK. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
^ Greenwood, Charles (1977). Famous houses of the West Country. Bath:
Kingsmead Press. pp. 70–74. ISBN 978-0-901571-87-8.
^ "060219.Bath, A Room with a View". Bath Daily Photos. Retrieved 20
Ralph Allen Town House". National Heritage List for England.
Historic England. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
^ Ross, Kay. "Building Report on The Friends Meeting House, York
Street, Bath" (PDF). The House Historians. Bath and North East
Somerset. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
^ Holland, Elizabeth (1992). The Kingston Estate Within the Walled
City of Bath: A Composite Plan of the 1740s Showing the Work of John
Wood and Others. Blackett Press. ASIN B00ILBPT60.
^ "Ralph Allen's House, Terrace Walk, Bath". Images of England.
English Heritage. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
^ "060219.Bath, A Room with a View". Bath Daily Photos. Retrieved 16
^ "Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases". Bath Heritage.
Retrieved 20 January 2018.
^ Knowles, Rachel. "
Ralph Allen - Weymouth's first Georgian tourist".
Regency History. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
Ralph Allen black plaque in Weymouth". Blue Plaques. Retrieved 20
^ "Mausoleum to Ralph Allen, in churchyard to south of St Mary's
Church". Images of England. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
^ "About our School".
Ralph Allen School. Retrieved 20 January
^ "Our History".
Prior Park College. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
^ "History: Prior Park, Bath, England". Parks and Gradens UK. Parks
and Gardens Data Services Ltd. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
^ "Development of the garden at Prior Park". National Trust. Archived
from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
Ralph Allen CornerStone".
Ralph Allen CornerStone. Retrieved 20
Ralph Allen at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Allen, Ralph (1694-1764) Philanthropist at the National Register of
Prior Park Landscape Garden, National Trust