- Your visit
- What's on
Situated in the historic market town of Alton, the Allen Gallery is an intimate setting for one of the south’s most outstanding collections of ceramics. The gallery hosts an impressive and varied selection of pottery, porcelain and tiles dating from 1250 to the present day.
The front section of the gallery was originally a stable and coachman’s house. William Hugh Curtis, the final owner of the building, left the premises in his will to be used as a public museum. The gallery opened its doors in 1963 and in 1979 was extended with funds from the WH Allen Bequest and Hampshire County Council. On the ground floor of the gallery are the main exhibition areas, shop, café and toilets, and on the first floor you will find our children's activity area as well as more displays showcasing our excellent ceramics collection. When you have finished your trip to the gallery, why not pay a visit to our sister venue in Alton, the Curtis Museum, home to one of the finest local history collections in Hampshire.
Alongside its inspiring permanent displays, the Allen Gallery hosts a wide variety of temporary exhibitions all year round, as well as a regular programme of fun events and activities for all the family to enjoy, drop-in sessions, talks and bookable workshops.
Things to do
The gallery is a great place for the whole family to enjoy. Here are just a few of the things you can do during your visit:
- Discover our outstanding collection of ceramics, porcelain and tiles
- Younger visitors can explore the gallery with our activity bags, dressing-up clothes, workshops and drop-in activities
- Find out about former director of Farnham Art School, WH Allen, and his paintings
- Relax in our tranquil gardens
- Visit our welcoming café and browse the museum shop
Ceramics at the Allen Gallery
Visitors to Alton have been able to see fine English pottery and porcelain in the town since the early 1930s, when local resident Major Ross Bignell first contributed items to the nearby Curtis Museum. Many of these pieces were transferred to the Allen Gallery in 1980 and are still on show today.
The gallery continues to display a wide range of ceramics, from Wedgwood and English Delftware to unique studio pottery and even a rare wall tile depicting a 17th century popish plot. Of the 3,000 pieces currently on show, the majority are drawn from around the UK, but they sit alongside Eastern Asian and continental wares which have historically influenced the ceramics industry in this country.
William Herbert Allen’s life as a working artist spanned more than fifty years, from the late 1880s to the early 1940s. He became Art Master and later director at Farnham School of Art, whilst also painting thousands of pictures of the countryside around the south of England and the continent. Regular exhibitions of original WH Allen watercolours and oils take place in the Allen Gallery, which was named in his honour.
The gallery contains pieces by some of the best-known names in ceramics and sculpture. Items by Lucie Rie can be seen and the tin-glazed earthenware collection, containing examples of English and European work, is of international importance. The gallery is also home to a range of sculptures, with a Parian ware bust of Queen Victoria and a bronze sculpture of a woman known as ‘Dolores’ by the American sculptor, Jacob Epstein.
Picturesque and tranquil, the Allen Gallery garden dates back to the days when founder William Curtis lived at 4 High Street in Alton. The garden’s sundial is mounted on a baluster from the Old London Bridge which was presented by Alderman James Curtis. Our gardens are tended by a team of volunteers who maintain a beautiful and relaxing space for our visitors to enjoy. Situated in the gallery garden is a life-size sculpture of two young girls playfully dancing, based on sculptor Roger Burnett’s own daughters.