ALLEN, John Hensleigh (1769-1843), of Cresselly, Pemb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 29 Aug. 1769, 1st s. of Capt. John Bartlett Allen of Cresselly by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Hensleigh, attorney, of Pant-teg. educ. Westminster 1779; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1789; L. Inn 1789, called 1797. m. 12 Nov. 1812, Gertrude, da. of Lord Robert Seymour*, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1803.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Pemb. 1808-9.

Lt.-col. Pemb. vols. 1803, S. regt. R. Pemb. militia 1809.


Allen’s grandfather had acquired Cresselly by marriage to its Bartlett heiress in 1728; his father, a disgruntled veteran of the Seven Years War, lived in a house he had built in the midst of a colliery, an important source of the family income.1 Allen practised as a barrister on the Oxford and South Wales circuit until he inherited Cresselly in 1803 and remained on the law lists as practising on the Brecon circuit till 1820. As brother-in-law of James Mackintosh*, he frequented Whig society and was a founder member of the King of Clubs, 1800.2 His local associations, notwithstanding his eventual marriage, were also Whig, and he attached himself to the Blues, led by Lords Cawdor, Kensington and Milford. He actively supported Milford in the county election of 1807 and opposed the loyal address from Pembrokeshire in June of that year. At their instigation he canvassed Pembroke Boroughs against John Owen in 1809. He withdrew on that occasion, but in 1812 stood a poll against Owen, which he could ill afford, only to be defeated.3 He again threatened intervention at the by-elections of 1813 and 1815, announcing on the latter occasion that he would offer himself in future to prevent Pembroke from becoming a rotten borough. On 26 Sept. 1813 he had treated Joseph Foster Barham* to ‘a very long prose’:

I must say my friends have shown considerable skill in preventing my sitting for it [Pembroke]. My first chance was destroyed by their forcing Ld. Milford to stand unwillingly against Sir Hugh [Owen in 1807]. Had it been otherwise I should probably have come in on the death of [Hugh] Barlow. This I foresaw yet laboured as hard as anybody for Lord M.’s success. Then Owen offered to bring me in when he thought himself sure of Scourfield and Tucker, consequently sure of the county. Next of all if Lord C[awdor] had made me the offer of a guarantee at an earlier period, I should have canvassed at the same time with [Hon. John Frederick] Campbell and have occupied the ground so to have made it a difficult thing for any candidate to have beat me who had started at the post and indeed could have had the writ for Pembroke (for I was with Ld. R[obert] S[eymour] when he sent for that for Carmarthenshire) which would have secured me, and lastly when Owen offered to leave Pembroke to the loser of the county election, why did they not submit that offer to me as it was not thought worthy of Campbell’s acceptance? Moreover if Lord Cawdor had made 500 more votes at Wiston, Picton never would have stood or any other man when it was known there was a majority against him, but why Lord Cawdor stopped short then or why he waits now as if he was afraid of having a majority of voters over Owen I am equally at a loss to guess. His £3,000 is now thrown away.

Yet his unopposed returns in 1818 and 1820 were possible only because of the coalition between his sponsor Cawdor, who never allowed him to imagine that he could stand on his own bottom, and Owen of Orielton; when in 1826, the compromise ended and the 2nd Baron Cawdor withdrew his backing, Allen stood no chance.4

In Parliament he voted regularly with opposition on all major issues and supported legal reform. Unless he was the ‘Mr Allen’ who objected to the poor settlement bill on 10 May 1819, his only known speeches were made after 1820. An ‘excellent Member of Parliament, although no speaker’, he was very disappointed to lose his seat in 1826. He died 12 Apr. 1843. His obituary stated:

He began life as an uncompromising advocate in behalf of the much injured Poles, a staunch supporter of Catholic and negro emancipation, and he professed the same liberal feelings when ... he sat during two Parliaments for the borough of Pembroke; for he then enlisted under the banners of Tierney, Brougham and Mackintosh, labouring to reduce taxation and to give constitutional rights to every class of ... subjects.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. E. Inglis-Jones, JNLW, xvii. 136; R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 316.
  • 2. Mackintosh Mems. i. 137, 190, 227; ii. 477.
  • 3. Allen told Kensington that he could not spend more than £2,500. He had eight surviving sisters, on whom their father had settled £1,800, Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 132, Foster Barham to Campbell, 29 July 1813; Inglis-Jones, loc. cit.
  • 4. Bodl. Clarendon dep. C.431, bdle. 5; 1 Cawdor 133, Allen’s ‘statement of the misunderstanding which took place between Mr [J.F.] Campbell and myself in June 1815’.
  • 5. A. Keppel-Jones, Philipps 1820 Settler, 212; Gent. Mag. (1843), i. 658.