- Collection Overview
- Collection Description & Creator Information
- Access & Use
- Collection History
- Find Related Materials
- Allen family
- Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
- Allen Family Burma Collection
- Manuscripts Division
- Permanent URL:
- 2 boxes and 0.7 linear feet
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-2
The Allen Family Burma Collection documents two generations of British aristocrats in colonial Burma, and consists of two diaries, dating from 1889 to 1890, and two scrapbooks, dating from 1781 to 1935. In total, the collection is extensive; within the scrapbooks are nearly six hundred items, including photographs, newspapers clippings, letters, and ephemera. As a group, this collection gives a great insight into colonial life in Burma immediately following Burma's incorporation into the British Empire.
Collection Description & Creator Information
This collection, which documents two generations of British aristocrats in colonial Burma, consists of two diaries, dating from 1889 to 1890, and two scrapbooks, dating from 1781 to 1935. The scrapbooks, alone, tell the story of the Irish Allen family who occupied Dhuarigle Castle in County Cork, Ireland and held the title of Baron. In the late 1880s, William Henry Allen, a ship captain, left Ireland and moved to Burma with his new wife Annie Rayner Allen. At the start or their voyage on the S.S. Kathleen, Annie Allen's story is the central focus of the scrapbooks and from 1889 to 1890, the diaries and the scrapbook, used together, provide a detailed and intimate view of the challenges of sea travel, the uncertainties of living in a very foreign country, and her joy at becoming a mother. During the years of 1889 to 1912, the scrapbooks document the Allen family's life in Burma and their interest in Burmese culture, but also show the determined effort to remain close to family who remained in the British Isles. The life of Captain and Mrs. Allen's daughter, Barbara, is documented through photographs, letters, and sketches. Although the family spent more than twenty years in Burma, their collection and display of ephemera show clearly how they stayed close to their British heritage by taking pride in the monarchy and celebrating traditional events, memorials, and practices.
Around 1912, the focus of the scrapbooks seems to shift to Barbara Allen and her circle of friends, and in particular, her husband, Major George Cecil Brooke. The scrapbooks include material about their wedding, their trip to Buckingham Palace shortly after their marriage, and the birth of their son, John Henry Allen Brooke. Very little about the deaths of Captain Allen and Major Brooke, both of which took place early in 1915, is included in these scrapbooks, but there are a considerable number of newspaper clippings about the extended family and friends of the Allens, Rayners, and Brookes. It is unclear who actually created the scrapbooks, although, it appears that it may have been constructed by Barbara Allen's descendants, since her own son and grandchildren are included.
In total, the collection is extensive; within the scrapbooks are nearly six hundred items, including photographs, newspapers clippings, letters, and ephemera. The photographs date from both the 19th and 20th centuries, and many of the 19th century photographs were made by Watts and Sleens of Rangoon. As a group, this collection gives a great insight into colonial life in Burma immediately following Burma's incorporation into the British Empire.
- Collection Creator Biography:
Captain William Henry Allen (W.H. Allen), a member of an aristocratic British family, settled in Burma from his home at Castle Dhuarigle in County Cork, after his position as ship Captain first took him to and from the Far East in the early 1880s. During his first perilous voyage, he transported pilgrims from Bombay to Jeddah on the S.S. Adowa. Earning a reputation as a responsible seaman, Captain Allen then captained the S.S. Kathleen; joined the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, a passenger and cargo ferry company on the Irrawaddy River in Burma; and finally joined the Royal Indian Marine, serving as captain of the patrol boats Patrick and George which also carried passengers and government stores. He was appointed Assistant Port Officer, a position which he held until about 1910 when he was appointed Secretary to the Mayo Marine Institute.
Captain Allen married Annie Rayner (born 1864), and at the end of 1888, they traveled together to live in Burma. Annie Rayner was the daughter of Hugh and Mary Smyth Rayner and the sister of Mary, Hugh, Ellen, Fanny, Bertha, and Charles. During her life in Burma, Annie remained in contact with her family through letters and visits. Captain and Mrs. Allen were socially very active as they were part of the protocol of Rangoon and Mandalay. Over the years, the Allens spent time at Maymyo, a British Hill Station in the Shan Highlands, in addition to Rangoon.
In 1889, the Allen's daughter, Barbara Allen (1889-1979), was born. Barbara was part of the British society of Burma, despite the fact that she was probably educated at Bedford High School for Girls in England. She eventually married Major George Cecil Brooke (1870-1915), a career soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment, and son of Brigadier Henry Francis Brooke (1836-1880). Major Brooke was educated at Wellington College in Crawthorne, Berkshire England and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. During his military career, Major Brooke served in the Waziristan Expedition in 1895, the Malakand Expedition from 1897 to 1898, and the Siege of Tientsin and Relief of Pekin from 1900 to 1903. From 1907 to 1910, Major Brooke acted as Adjutant of Militia and Special Reserve of the Lancashire Fusiliers Depot in Bury, England. Following their marriage in 1912, George and Barbara Brooke were invited to Buckingham Palace, where they spent some time before their son, Henry John Allen Brooke, was born in 1913. Major Brooke was killed in action at the Dardanelles on April 28, 1915, very shortly after the death of Barbara's father. Barbara appears to have kept in contact with her husband's mother Ann Isabella Christopher Brooke (about 1847-1927), and his sisters, Mabel Alice (1868-1954) who married Alister Grant Dallas and Violet (1869-1936) who married Francis Hall.
Following the deaths of her father and husband, Barbara spent a good deal of time at Hampton Court Palace, living in Apartment 21, by "grace and favour" of the monarch. Like his father, Henry John Allen Brooke (1913-2003) was educated at Wellington College and made his career in the military. He served as a Commander in the Royal Navy from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, seeing action in the Spanish Civil War from 1937 to 1938 and in World War II.
This collection was purchased in 2013.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No material was separated during 2013 processing.
- Processing Information:
This collection was processed by Holly Mengel in 2013. Finding aid written by Holly Mengel in 2013.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Allen Family Burma Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA(609) 258-3184
- Subject Terms:
- Colonial life -- Burma -- 19th century
- Genre Terms:
- Diaries -- 19th century
Ephemera -- 19th century
Ephemera -- 20th century
Indentures -- 18th century
Letters (correspondence) -- 19th century
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century
Photographs -- 19th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Scrapbooks -- 19th century
Scrapbooks -- 20th century
- Allen, Anne Rayner, b. 1864
Allen, William Henry, d. 1915
Brooke, Barbara Allen, 1889-1979
Brooke, George Cecil, 1870-1915
Rayner, Mary Smyth, 1823-1923
- Burma -- Description and travel -- 19th century
Burma -- History --1824-1948 -- Sources
Great Britain -- Colonies -- Burma -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
Great Britain -- Colonies -- Burma -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- Burma -- 19th century
Great Britain. Army. King's Own Royal Border Regiment, to 1984
Great Britain. Royal Indian Navy, 1612-1950
Ireland -- Description and travel