100 years of the Allen
The Allen on Beezon Road Kendal is celebrating 100 years of training and education in South Lakeland this year.
Part of the Arts & Media Campus, the Allen now provides a base for arts, media, performance, music and technical theatre students and features industry standard facilities and equipment, which can also be seen in The Box, Kendal College's new performance space.
The following is a brief history of the Allen and how it came to be built, a hundred years ago:
THE JAMES ALLEN TECHNICAL INSTITUTE
Station Road/Beezon Road, Kendal College
courtesy of Arthur Nicholls
James Allen was born at Kirkby Lonsdale on 18 April 1814 and died at the age of 82 on 28 February 1896. He was the son of John Allen, the manager of Wilson’s Bank in Kirkby Lonsdale, his uncle’s bank. On leaving Kirkby Lonsdale Grammar School, he was apprenticed, with his cousin John Wilson, in the drapery business. He spent some time in London and then went into business in Kendal where he stayed for over 60 years. He retired in 1868 and enjoyed his retirement for nearly thirty years. He was a Councillor in Kendal for three years and that was the extent of his interest in public life. He gave lavishly to charitable causes in Kendal and when he died his fortune, added to by money from his nephew’s estate, amounted to nearly £25,000. His trustees expended this wisely to several institutions in Kendal as well as to the new Technical Institute.
A photograph and full obituary of James Allen was published in the issue of The Westmorland Gazette for 24 May 1912.
The Kendal technical School in Kent Street, Kendal, was highly successful. In five years it had doubled its number of students and the Director of Education Lancaster said he was astonished at the excellence of its work despite its premises having been condemned by His Majesty’s Inspectors time and again. At a meeting of the Kendal Technical Schools Committee at the Town Hall in January 1905 it was agreed by all present that something should be done about this 
This was the seed that blossomed into the Allen Technical Institute
At the beginning of July the Westmorland Education Committee agreed about the urgency of finding new premises for Kendal Technical Schools. It was estimated that new schools could be built for £7,000 exclusive of the cost of the site, furniture and incidentals. Dr Parker hoped that work on new schools would soon begin and said that he expected the Allen Trustees would provide £6,000 or £7,000 before very long. Kendal Corporation agreed to find a site at a cost not exceeding £2,000 .
The James Allen Trustees offered to grant £4,000 towards the building of a new Technical School and discussions centred on the selection of a suitable site. A short list was submitted to the Trustees at a Town Council meeting in February where it was hoped that Westmorland County Council would also contribute £3,000 .
The Trustees rejected all the proposals and produced their own list, saying that the site should be near the railway station .
At the Town Council meeting in April the Albert Buildings were mentioned but were not suggested as the preferred site. These were the Whitwell, Hagreaves & Co’s Northern Counties Wool Warehouse. This was the first time the site was mentioned and one can wonder if one of the Councillors, who part owned it, might have made the suggestion. In support for the site, it was reported that plans and designs were already in existence for alternations to the buildings which could be used for conversion to a Town Museum .
At a September Town Council meeting it was reported that draft contracts had been made with Messrs Leighton & Wild for the purchase of their Maude Street land for the school. Objections were raised at this. Councillor Monkhouse said that the Corporation should not make provisional agreements until they knew what they were letting themselves in for. The Corporation could only assume that the Allen trustees would contribute the £5,000 now as they were prepared to do a year or eighteen months ago.
The project should involve an outlay of some thousands of pounds. The Mayor said that it was necessary to determine provisional costs and that nothing further would be done until a site was agreed and the extent of contributions by the Trustees and the County Council was known and assured .
There was an animated discussion about the Technical School at a Ratepayers Association meeting in October. Some through that the use of Abbot Hall would be adequate and would save wasting ratepayers’ money on new building. Others said that, if the James Allen Trustees had so much money to spend they should build the school at their own expense as a memorial to James Allen. It was finally agreed to put the whole matter to a Committee – a common way of shelving unwelcome matters .
At the end of November the Westmorland Gazette published a fine perspective drawing of a design for the new school make by Mr Dolman of Windermere. There was no accompanying text but the design was remarkably like that which eventuated a few years later .
At the April meeting of the Town Council it was reported that the James Allen Trustees proposed to acquire the block of property known as Albert Buildings (the wool warehouse) together with the lodge and the former bowling green nearby and to build on the warehouse section a new Technical School costing £13,000. When completed, except for lighting and furnishing, the school would be given freely to the Corporation “for the benefit of the town of Kendal or any of the inhabitants thereof”. 
The Trustees desired to settle the matter as possible. It was, however, some two years before even the foundation stone was laid. The Town Council’s General Purposes Committee reported, with some satisfaction, that the new school would obviate the current expenditure of £35 a year for the accommodation of the cookery and manual classes. There was just one minor blot on the happy affair. Mr Hargreaves required an existing right-of-way to be continued across the yard of the site to his house, Beezon Lodge. This was satisfied to the satisfaction of all concerned.
The Allen trustees placed the offices of the wool warehouse at the Corporation’s disposal for a Kendal Museum and undertook to equip it and make it suitable for the purpose. In this way the Kendal Technical School and the Museum would be contiguous .
Plans for the proposed new Technical School were put before the General Purposes Committee of the Town Council in May and were approved, subject to certain alterations suggested by the Corporation and the Board of Education. It was recommended that they be despatched to the Board of Education for examination and that the Westmorland Education Committee would state the terms on which they were willing to maintain the school. The editor of the Westmorland Gazette hoped that the building would be completed and ready of occupation in two years .
The plans were approved by the Board of Education and the County Council had agreed terms for the management and upkeep of the school. As Kendal was to provide the building, the County would be responsible for the equipment and maintenance at about £300 a year. It considered this a good bargain and intended to see that the equipment, organisation and facilities would be so ordered as to meet the real needs of the County as thoroughly as possible .
On a wet Monday 20 May, under a sea of umbrellas, the Mayoress of Kendal, Mrs W H Musgrove, laid the foundation stone of the Allen technical Institute (as it was now to be known). It was her birthday. There was a large crowd, including almost all the Town Aldermen and Councillors, The Architect Stephen Shaw, the Chief Constable and many Kendal notables. It rained steadily the whole time so the outdoor proceedings were brief. Having wielded the mallet and silver trowel (provided by the architect), the Mayoress pronounced, “I declare this stone to be well and truly laid, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The Vicar of St George’s Church then offered prayer whereupon a hasty retreat was made to the shelter of the adjoining Albert Buildings for an excellent luncheon. This was followed by the customary interminable speeches. The architect said that the site, near the station as originally desired by the Allen Trustees, and that there was spare land available for gardens or a future extension. Thus, it had easy access and was at the same time in a quiet neighbourhood . How times have changed!
Work progressed well on the Technical Institute but in April complaints were raised that no water supply was being installed in the Allen Building, an unbelievable situation considering the uses to which it was to be put, and this would make for difficulties in the construction, holding up completion and handing over to the Corporation . At the next Council Meeting it was reported that the Allen Trustees had declared their intention to hand over the building complete except for lighting and furnishing. There was no gas in the building! The matter of both water and gas would have to be resolved so that classes could be opened satisfactorily . These hiccups, problems affecting all new construction, were satisfactorily resolved.
1914 (Beginning of The Great War)
By August the Allen Technical Institute was virtually complete. The new schools abutted directly on to the warehouse of the Albert Buildings. The total cost, including extensive alterations in the warehouse for the new Museum, amounted to some £15,000. The site was described as “on a corner facing Sandes Avenue and Beezon Lane, with the Museum facing Station Road” In fact, the building faced Station Road and Sandes Avenue ended at Beezon Road.
The building was an imposing edifice, three stories high, with the main entrance in Station Road and those for boys and girls separately on other sides.
Inside, the spacious main entrance with its wide staircase were lined with choice marbles. The corridors were tiled and hot water heating was installed.
The exterior was Renaissance in character, faced with limestone and with Mullow freestone dressings used sparingly except round the entrance itself. These dressing (decorations0 eroded badly over the next eighty years or so and in places have disappeared altogether. The pediment roofs are more elaborate, “the whole having a pleasing, scholastic effect” .
The Institute was formally opened, with a ceremony shortened on account of the War, on Saturday 29 August, and was handed over to the Corporation by the Allen Trustees, J E Hargreaves and Edward Garnett. There was a select group of guests representing the County Council, the Mayor and Corporation of Kendal, the Town Clerk, the Architect, and the Chairman of the County Education Committee.
On 28 September the Institute was opened to the public for their inspection.
The Institute was a godsend to many young lads who gained the skills which were to sand them in good stead in their uncertain future.
The Museum, next door to the Institute, was formally opened on 1 April. IT was somewhat surprising that none of the Allen trustees were present.
Much of this information was gleaned from The Westmorland Gazette. For further reference see the dates of issues given below. Among other sources referred to were Kendal Corporation Minute Books.
The Westmorland Gazette:
 1 February 1905  28 January 1911
 4 July 1908  3 June 1911
 27 February 1909  5 August 1911
 3 April 1909  24 May 1912
 1 May 1909  5 April 1913
 2 October 1909  19 April 1913
 9 October 1908  5 September 1914
 27 November 1909  5 September 1914
 30 April 1910
 Wilson’s Household Almanac & Diary for 1914
As this information was gathered for a study on Sandes Avenue, no reference was made to any documents held by or for the Institute.
The Allen today
The Allen is now part of the Arts and Media Campus, where Kendal College's very broad range of creative arts courses are based. The Allen hosts creative courses and has unrivalled facilities including music rehearsal booths, a fully equipped recording studio with Midas mixing desk, a music venue, photographic studio and darkroom, Mac studios and art studios.
The College has opened the Castle Dairy building as a restaurant and art gallery, complementing Wildman Street Studios next door, where our foundation degree in art and design is based. The Castle Dairy also provides refreshments for Kendal Museum visitors and pre-theatre drinks for performing arts and music shows in The Box. The Castle Dairy building will operate as a real-world training environment for hospitality and catering students.
Kendal College manages Kendal Museum as part of a ten-year partnership agreement with South Lakeland District Council. The Museum has submitted a Heritage Lottery bid of over £½ million to invest in the museum and its exhibits. For more information about Kendal Museum see their website
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