Rediscovering the Allen Gallery
Alton’s Allen Gallery is an intimate setting for one of the nation’s most outstanding collections of ceramics. In the autumn of 2022, supported by initial funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we embarked on the first phase of an exciting project to rediscover the Allen Gallery for the community and town of Alton.
About the Allen Gallery
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
- Browse the museum shop and visit our welcoming café. Bring your own cup for 30p off your hot drink!
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. 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.
Object of the month
This month we take a look at the Maling Pottery Marmalade Jar. Maling pottery was found in 1762 in North Hylton, Sunderland by French Protestant Hugenots (originally called Malin) who fled to England to escape religious persecution in the late 16th century. You can find out more here.
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.
Hot and cold drinks and snacks are available from our café.
Bring your own cup!
Get 30p off your next hot drink in the museum café when you bring your own reusable cup! Simply present your cup to a member of staff to claim your discount.
The Allen Gallery has level access to the ground floor only.
Assistance dogs are welcome, as long as they are clearly identifiable.
To arrange a group visit or booking, please call the Allen Gallery on 01420 82802.
The Allen Gallery welcomes young visitors to study our permanent display of ceramics. We also hold a programme of regularly changing exhibitions which often have specific opportunities for schools.
For more information, please email email@example.com or call 01420 82802.
By bus: Alton is served by buses from surrounding major towns. All buses terminate at Alton railway station, which is a five minute walk from the gallery.
By rail: Alton railway station is within walking distance of the gallery.
By car: the Allen Gallery is located near the centre of Alton. There is public pay and display parking nearby.
To hire the Allen Gallery, please call 01420 82802.