Alton’s Allen Gallery is an intimate setting for one of the nation’s most outstanding collections of ceramics. Supported by initial funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are undertaking an exciting project to rediscover the Allen Gallery for the community and town of Alton.
Launched in autumn of 2022, this ambitious, two-stage redevelopment project has community engagement at its heart. Its aim is to reimagine the collection of nationally and internationally important ceramics, releasing their potential and enabling everyone from specialists to novices to enjoy them. The gallery will become a thriving heritage and cultural hub for the community of Alton and the surrounding area, while our programme of events, exhibitions and activities will be developed to be more responsive to the needs of everyone in the community.
The first, development, phase of the project focused on rediscovering the collections at the Allen Gallery, revealing their untold stories. We also built on our current relationships with community groups and partners, and forged new ones, developing more volunteering opportunities, expanding our programme of events and activities and establishing a clearer link between the gallery and our beautiful gardens. Once funds have been secured, the second phase of the project will begin in 2025: a refurbishment of the Allen Gallery which will showcase the ceramics collection, create a dedicated community space and make a significant contribution to the culture, economy and life of Alton.
The Allen Gallery is home to a nationally and internationally significant collection of ceramics, with an impressive and varied selection of pottery, porcelain and tiles dating from 1250 to the present day. The ceramics on display at the Allen Gallery form part of a much larger collection cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust, stored in Winchester.
In the first phase of the project, the collections work focused on:
Rediscovering the full extent of the collection and its significance
Researching and discovering the untold stories behind the collections
Recruiting collections volunteers in both Alton and Winchester to work on documentation, audit and research, diversifying our volunteer base to recruit and engage students
Undertaking a volunteer research programme to identify social history stories and themes and previously underrepresented histories
Building relationships with ceramic specialists and groups
The Allen Gallery is set to undergo its most significant capital project since the building and its collection were opened to the public over 70 years ago. It has played a key role in Alton for more than half a century and houses one of the largest and most important ceramics collections in the UK outside London.
We were delighted to receive development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the first phase of the project, Rediscovering the Allen Gallery. However, we require further funding to realise our ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the gallery, which will include a new community space and also ensure our rediscovered collections are accessible to everyone.
This year, we submitted a second application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the second phase of the project, in addition to seeking support from other identified funding sources. However, this funding is not guaranteed, and we need as much support as possible to ensure that our long-term ambitions for an Allen Gallery which is open and accessible to everyone are realised.
If you would like to support this project, here are a few ways you can help:
Every month throughout the life of the Rediscovering the Allen Gallery project, we will be shining a light on an object from the collections.
In January 2024, the first object of the New Year was a focus on Farnham Pottery owl ware. Read about these objects here.
In December's article, the team explored a nineteenth century, everyday object with an unusual form: a ceramic footwarmer by Hopkins and Northen. Click here to read the article.
In November, the team turned the focus away from one object and focused on the people that made the: Wedgewood workers. Click here for more information.
In October, we looked at a salt-glazed creamware jug by Walter Keeler. This month's object was part of collaboration with Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, as we celebrated Farnham Craft Month. Click here for more information, or visit the Allen Gallery.
In September, we looked at an earthenware figure of Charity, produced by Herculaneum Pottery in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Click here for more information, or visit the Allen Gallery.
In August, we looked at the Maling Pottery marmalade jar. Click here for more information.
In July, we looked at a white vase by famous potter, Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie which forms part of the gallery's ceramic collection. Click here for more information, or visit the Allen Gallery.
The Allen Gallery hosts a wide variety of temporary exhibitions, frequently featuring the works of WH Allen, for whom the gallery was named, as well as a regular programme of events, activities, talks and workshops. The development phase of the project saw this programme expanding to meet the needs of our community and included.
- Our programme for families continued during the school holidays, with hands-on activities for children aged five and upwards
- A new, Saturday morning art club was introduced for young people aged 13 and over
- Our evening programme was expanded, with talks for local interest groups
- Film nights became part of our evening programme
Discover events at the Allen Gallery
We are proud to enjoy strong partnerships with communities and groups in and around Alton, and during the first phase of the project, we strengthened these links as well as making new partnerships.
- In partnership with South Downs National Park, we began a new programme for young people in the summer of 2023, focusing on heritage, craft and careers
- Working with Dementia-Friendly Alton, an eight-week programme began in February 2023 and a friendship café craft club was introduced on Sundays
Volunteer with us
Our team at the Allen Gallery is built around our incredible volunteers. Whether you are looking to learn new skills, share existing ones or to pursue a passion, there are opportunities for you. This can be a few hours each week or a couple of days as a one-off – our volunteer roles offer flexibility, enjoyment and a chance to develop both yourself and others.
We are currently looking for volunteers for the following roles:
- Community volunteers
To find out more, please email us.
What are the plans for the Allen Gallery?
Hampshire Cultural Trust is currently undertaking an ambitious project to redesign and reinterpret the Allen Gallery’s collections, create multi-use community spaces and create a clearer visible link between the gallery and the garden. As part of the project, Hampshire Cultural Trust will also develop a new engagement programme aimed at attracting under-served community groups and create a thriving heritage hub for the community in Alton and the surrounding area.
Who is funding the project?
The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) has funded the first (developmental) phase of the project. The National Lottery Heritage Fund supports projects that connect communities to the national, regional and local heritage of the UK. It is the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage. Funding for the second phase will consist of a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, fundraised income and Hampshire Cultural Trust self-investment.
How much has been granted?
The initial grant for the first phase of development is for £285,591 with a potential delivery grant of more than £1,000,000 to be applied for in 2024.
Who is involved in the project?
Hampshire Cultural Trust is partnering with a number of local organisations to carry out this project. At the very heart of the project is the Alton community and those from surrounding areas. We will be working closely with our communities to ensure that the Allen Gallery is relevant, suits the needs of our community and is accessible.
What is the project’s time scale?
The first (development) phase began in September 2022 and has now finished. If our application for further funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund is successful, the delivery phase will start in 2025 with the venue re-opening in 2026.
How can I keep up to date with the project?
We will be updating the Allen's webpage where possible, but please do pop in and say hello to our team at the Allen Gallery, they will be excited to welcome you and tell you how the project is progressing. You can also sign up to our monthly newsletter.
What will happen to the gallery’s name? Will it stay the same?
It is likely that the name will stay the same, however, this is one area that will be reviewed with the community, partners and stakeholders throughout the project.
Will the gallery close during the project?
The gallery will close during the development phase. Dates will be announced once funding has been secured.