We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Special Collections

Durham Cathedral Library Collection Description

Collection Level Description: George Allan Manuscripts

Collection Level Description: George Allan Manuscripts

Collection name: George Allan Manuscripts
Collection code: GB-0036-ALL
Date range: 16th century to late 18th century, most material 18th century
Extent: 22 volumes numbered 1-22
Language: Predominantly English with some Latin
Created by: George Allan (1736-1800), creator and collector

An antiquarian's collection comprising both his own copies of documents and notes on local history, together with some similar volumes acquired from other antiquarians. Allan's own work features transcripts of 16th and 17th century heraldic visitations with pedigrees and coats of arms for Co Durham and Yorkshire along with compilations of material relating to the parishes and other institutions of Co Durham and the town of Darlington in particular. He also acquired volumes of transcripts of documents relating chiefly to the antiquities of Co Durham, along with some of more general historical interest, originally compiled by Ralph Thoresby, James Mickleton, John Mann, Thomas Gyll and James Allan.
About the creator:
George Allan, the son of James Allan of Blackwell Grange, Darlington, was born on 7 June 1736. He was an eminent lawyer in Darlington, and was also very active as an antiquarian, being particularly interested in Co Durham's history. He acquired the collections of Gyll, Hunter, Mann, Hodgson and Swainston, in addition to the important natural history museum of Marmaduke Tunstall of Wycliffe. He was also bequeathed Thomas Randall's manuscripts in 1775. Added to the extensive library he built up himself, this made a valuable resource for antiquarians to use and Hutchinson's History of Durham (1785-1794) in particular owed much to his patronage and assistance. His interests and reputation meant that in 1764 he was asked to become Richmond Herald, an offer he declined. In 1768 he set up a private press at Blackwell Grange and published a number of documents, such as Cromwell's letter about setting up a University at Durham, along with collections about Durham's history, such as Collectanea ad statum civilem et ecclesiasticum comitatus Dunelmensis spectantia, and more general topographical works such as Thomas Falkner's Of the Patagonians (1788). An inveterate transcriber, "every day of his life he is said to have written almost a quire" (DNB) in pursuit of his antiquarian interests into, especially, the hospitals of Gateshead, Sherburn and Greatham, the bishops of Durham and the Free Grammar School of Darlington. He retired from the law in 1790 and died of a stroke on 18 May 1800.
Arranged in the arbitrary order of the volume numbering.
Sold by George Allan esq of Blackwell Grange, son of the creator, along with Thomas Randall's manuscripts, to Durham Dean and Chapter in 1823 for £150.
Previous ownership history:
His library and museum were sold under the terms of his will and were bought by his son George who continued to encourage access to such as Robert Surtees, Sir Cuthbert Sharp and John Nichols.
Open for consultation. For opening hours see the Cathedral Library's web page at
Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Librarian (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.
List published in T. Rud, Codicum Manuscriptorum Ecclesiae Cathedralis Dunelmensis Catalogus Classicus (Durham 1825) p.423-431, though this only covers 1-18. Manuscript additions in the Cathedral Library copy of Rud list 19-22.
Related collections held at Durham:
The Thomas Randall manuscripts were part of Allan's collection after being bequeathed to him by Randall in 1775. Sharp 76-78 and 111 are manuscripts of his which were given by Allan's son George to Sir Cuthbert Sharp. They were bought by Bishop Maltby for the Dean and Chapter after Sharp's own death in 1849; his copy of Hutchinson's The history and antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (3 vols, Durham 1823) is now 8-10 in the same collection. Add Ms 226 is his volume on Greatham Hospital.
Related collections elsewhere:
A description of his natural history museum, now part of the collections at the Newcastle Hancock Museum, is Add Ms 731 in Durham University Library, ASC, which also holds some correspondence of his (Add Mss 346 and 1018), and some of his interleaved copies of works printed by him (Add Mss 191, 927 and 1554). Personal papers for 1758-1798 are in North Yorkshire County Record Office, Northallerton.

Date last modified: 8 July 2010