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Allon, Henry (DNB01)

ALLON, HENRY (1818–1892), congregational divine, born at Welton, near Hull, on 13 Oct. 1818, was the son of William Allon, a builder and estate steward. He was apprenticed as a builder at Beverley, where he joined the congregational church, and began to preach at the age of seventeen. His devout character attracted the attention of James Sherman [q. v.], and others, by whose influence he was received in 1839 as a student at Cheshunt College, where he studied theology under John Harris (1802–1856) [q. v.] In 1844 he became assistant to Thomas Lewis at Union Chapel, Islington. He was ordained on 12 June 1844, and his preaching at once created a remarkable impression. His striking presence added to the effect of his delivery, while he appealed in his sermons to the intellect rather than to the emotions of his hearers. On the death of Lewis on 29 Feb. 1852 Allon became sole pastor of the church. In 1861 Union Chapel was enlarged, and between 1874 and 1877 it was rebuilt. Allon did not, however, confine his labours to his congregation, but extended them to many different fields of action. His services to Cheshunt College were very great. After Sherman’s death in 1862 he filled the honorary office of secretary, and in 1864 he was appointed ministerial trustee, as well as one of the trustees of the countess of Huntingdon’s connection [see Hastings, Selina]. He also made extensive journeys through the British Isles and the United States, where in 1871 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from Yale University. He received a similar distinction from St. Andrews in 1885. He was twice elected president of the Congregational Union—in 1864 and in 1881—an unprecedented distinction.

In literature Allon was equally active, while his services to nonconformist music were of the first importance. In 1863 he compiled a ‘Memoir of James Sherman’ (London, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1864), and in 1866, in conjunction with Henry Robert Reynolds [q. v. Suppl.], he undertook to edit the ‘British Quarterly Review,’ the representative organ of the free churches [see Vaughan, Robert, 1795–1868]. In 1877 he became sole editor, and continued in this position until the periodical was discontinued in 1886. His services to hymnology were of great value. He edited the ‘Congregational Psalmist’ in 1858 in conjunction with Henry John Gauntlett [q.v.], and new editions appeared in 1868, 1875, and 1889. A second edition, a ‘Chant Book,’ was published in 1860; a third section, ‘Anthems for Congregational Use,’ in 1872, and a fourth, ‘Tunes for Children’s Worship,’ in 1879. Besides editing these musical works he acted as editor to the ‘New Congregational Hymn-book,’ published ‘Supplemental Hymns for Public Worship’ in 1868, ‘Hymns for Children’s Worship’ in 1878, and the ‘Congregational Psalmist Hymnal’ in 1886. By these musical works, and by his lectures and writings, among which may be mentioned ‘The Worship of the Church,’ contributed to Henry Robert Reynolds’s ‘Ecclesia’ (1870), Allon did much to improve the musical portion of nonconformist worship. As a composer he is only represented by one hymn, ‘Low in Thine agony,’ written for Passiontide.

Allon died at Canonbury on 16 April 1892, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery on 21 April. A man of liberal thought and wide reading, many of his theological opinions were hardly in sympathy with those of his more conservative comtemporaries, such as John Campbell (1794–1867) [q. v.] They exposed him to animadversions, but no attack ever excited him to bitterness. In 1848 he was married at Bluntisham, in Huntingdonshire, to Eliza, eldest daughter of Joseph Goodman of Witton in that county. He left two sons and four daughters. A fund to establish a memorial to Allon was closed in 1897. By its means the chapel of Cheshunt College was enlarged, a new organ provided, and an Allon scholarship established.

Besides the works already mentioned, and numerous sermons and pamphlets, Allon was the author of: 1. ‘The Vision of God, and other Sermons,’ London, 1876, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1877. 2. ‘The Indwelling of Christ, and other Sermons,’ London, 1892, 8vo. He edited in 1869 the ‘Sermons’ of Thomas Binney [q. v.] with a biographical and critical sketch. A number of Allon’s letters to Reynolds are printed in ‘Henry Robert Reynolds; his Life and Letters,’ edited by his sisters in 1898.

Allon’s son, Henry Erskine Allon (1864–1897), musical composer, born in October 1864, was educated at Amersham Hall School near Reading, at University College, London, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied music under William Henry Birch and Frederic Corder. Besides two cantatas, ‘Annie of Lochroyan’ and ‘The Child of Elle,’ and many songs, he published several sonatas and other pieces for the pianoforte, and the pianoforte and violin. His work showed originality and power. He was one of the promoters of the ‘New Musical Quarterly Review,’ to which he frequently contributed. He died in London on 3 April 1897, and bequeathed his library of musical works to the Union Society of Cambridge University (information kindly given by Mr. L. T. Rowe).

[Harwood’s Henry Allon, 1894 (with portrait); Memorials of Henry Allon (with portrait), 1892; Congregational Year Book, 1893, pp. 202–5 (with portrait); Historical Sketch, prefixed to Sermons preached at the dedication of Union Chapel, Islington, 1878; Burrell’s Memoirs of T. Lewis, 1853; Waddington’s Congregational History, 1850–1880, pp. 426–46; Congregationalist, May 1879 (with portrait); J. Guinness Rogers in Sunday Magazine, 1892, pp. 387-91.]

E. I. C.