WREN’S CITY CHURCHES

The Postcards of H R Allenson

Taken from an article originally appearing in Picture Postcard Monthly in July 1998.

There are some series of postcards that immediately crave the attention of the collector, whether on account of their general interest, their artistic quality, their scarcity or some other less tangible reason.   The short series of twelve cards entitled “Wren’s City Churches” is such a set.   Any collector of either churches or London cards cannot fail to have noted occasional copies sprinkled sparingly in the stocks of dealers and to have pondered as to the personality of the publisher whose name they proudly bear.

It soon becomes apparent that there is a further related series “Old London Churches”, the twelve numbers of which follow on in sequence; cards of each series are to be found either in colour or black and white.   Each card bears on the front the following imprint “Published by Harry R. Allenson, 2 Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row E. C.” together with a distinctive printer’s reference number ( A425/369 on the coloured cards and A392/170 on the black and white versions).    On the back in the box for the postage stamp it says simply “Printed in Germany”.

The first six numbers in the series are not churches at all, but artist drawn cards by E.M.Roughton “Old and Vanishing London”, and the six cards, which comprise nos. 31-36 in the tail of the series are very scarce and consist of views of the West Kensington area of London; indeed three of these are currently unknown.   A listing of the known cards in the series is added below together with the traditional plea for collectors and dealers alike to try and help throw light on the gaps.

Some research in the Guildhall Library in London has helped to identify the publisher together with the company which he founded and which continued in business for another 36 years after his death.

Harry Rogers Allenson was born in 1866 in Market Lavington, Wiltshire, the eldest son of Thomas Henry Allenson and Harriett, née Rogers, his wife, whom he had married the year before at Brentford in Middlesex.   Thomas Henry Allenson had been born in Chelsea in 1841 and in the 1881 Census is in business as a Law Stationer at 7 Hills Place, near Oxford Circus in London, although sadly Harriett died there only two years later in 1883 when aged only 32.   Harry was brought up in the publishing business and married Lilian Blunt in 1898 in Hampstead; together they lived initially in Edmonton and their son Alec Rogers Allenson was born there in 1899.   On the 1901 Census they are living at 12 Carysfort Road, Crouch End, Hornsey, N, but shortly after they had moved to 9 Beaconsfield Terrace Road, West Kensington, just a stone’s throw from Kensington (Olympia) Station.   The postcards date from this phase of his life and appeared in 1904.

In 1906 he set up a limited company, moved to 7 Racquet Court, Fleet Street and began trading as H. R. Allenson Ltd.   He was still working there when he died on 14 October 1929, when aged only 53.   The company name was then changed to Allenson & Co Ltd and continued at Racquet Court until moving in 1936 to 5 Wardrobe Place, but still in the City of London.   They stayed there until 1957, when they moved to 33 Store Street, off Tottenham Court Road; the business finally folding in 1966.

The cards listed below represent but a flash in the pan of what was to become a larger publishing enterprise; no further postcards under the Allenson imprint appear to have been published.

By clicking on each card title you may view it - then click “BACK” to return to the listing.


    “Old and Vanishing London”

  1. Cloth Fair.
  2. The Dick Whittington, Cloth Fair, Smithfield.
  3. A Corner at the Back of Cloth Fair.
  4. “The Old Bell”, Holborn.
  5. Saint Bartholomew’s the Great, Smithfield.
  6. Old Houses, St Giles, Cripplegate.

    “Wren’s City Churches”

  7. St Mary Aldermary, Queen Victoria St.
  8. St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham St.
  9. St Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.
  10. St Dunstan in the East, Lower Thames St.
  11. St Margaret Pattens, Rood Lane.
  12. St Magnus the Martyr, Thames St.
  13. St Bride, Fleet Street.
  14. St Nicholas, Cole Abbey.
  15. St Andrew by the Wardrobe, Queen Victoria St.
  16. St Stephen, Walbrook.
  17. Christchurch, Newgate Street.
  18. St Andrew, Holborn.

    “Old London Churches”

  19. St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St.
  20. St Olave, Hart Street.
  21. St Katherine Cree, Leadenhall St.
  22. St Ethelburga, Bishopsgate St.
  23. St Andrew Undershaft, Leadenhall St.
  24. All Hallows Barking, Tower St.
  25. St Clement Danes, Strand.
  26. St Mary le Strand.
  27. St Dunstan in the West, Fleet St.
  28. St Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct.
  29. St Augustine, Austin Friars.
  30. St Botolph Aldgate.

    Un-named Series

  31. St Paul’s Schools, Hammersmith Broadway.
  32.  
  33. GPO Savings Bank, W. Kensington.
  34. St Paul’s Girls’ School.
  35.  
  36.  

And now the “Can you help fill in the gaps?” plea.   If you can please e-mail me with details.

© Philip Richards, April 2003.

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