A circa 1807 engraving of the House from "The Beauties of England and Wales"
House & Family History: In 1735 the Allerton Hall Estate (the oldest at Allerton) was sold to the Hardman family for £7,700. In 1799 it was purchased by William Roscoe (1753-1831), one of Liverpool's most eminent citizens. Roscoe was a historian, botanist, collector, poet, radical politician, lawyer, banker, self-taught art connoisseur, author, and crusader for progressive policies (he was a fervent campaigner for the abolition of slavery), and passionate believer in general education for the masses. He was the author of a number of books, most notably the life of Lorenzo de Medici (1795), which went through many reprintings and was translated into French, German, and other languages. His translation of Luigi Tansillo's "Nurse" appeared in 1798, followed by "The Life and Pontificate of Leo the Tenth" in 1805. "Butterfly's Ball," a fantasy for children was published in 1807. In 1822 he published his "Memoir of Richard Robert Jones of Aberdaron," and in 1824 his edition of the works of Alexander Pope appeared. In 1828 a folio monograph on the "Monandrian Plants" by Roscoe was published. He wrote tracts on penal jurisprudence and contributed to the "Transactions" of the Royal Society of Literature and the Linnean Society. The first collected edition of his "Poetical Works" was published in 1857. Roscoe acquired paintings and prints (beginning in the 1780s) to illustrate the development of art from the earliest times, which he used as part of the art education in his books. Giles Waterfield, writing in "Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections": "Roscoe was crucial to the development of museums in this country for several reasons. First, he advanced the fashion for buying Italian and Northern paintings of the period before Raphael, a taste that had already developed in Italy, Germany and France. Although he was not the first collector of this type in Britain, his was the first historically conceived collection to enter semi-public ownership (and it survives in part at the Walker Art Gallery). Roscoe was far ahead of the National Gallery, which continued until the 1840s to conform to traditional taste by buying 17th century paintings. For relatively small sums, he purchased ‘primitive' (that is, pre-1500) paintings in the salerooms as well as later paintings." Roscoe completed, 1810-12, the Palladian style red sandstone house that was started in the mid-18th century. In 1816 he came into financial difficulties when the banking house in which he was a partner neared collapse (he was, together with the bank's other partners, forced into bankruptcy in 1820). Roscoe's financial troubles forced the sale of his collection of books and pictures, and, ultimately, the Allerton Estate. At his bankruptcy part of his art collection was saved by his many friends and associates among the Nonconformist Radical merchants of Liverpool; they placed Roscoe's art in the collection of the Liverpool Royal Institution (it came to the Walker in the late 19th century). As Roscoe had always wanted his art collection to be of public benefit, it is certainly appropriate that much of his collection can be seen today at the Walker. After his bankruptcy Roscoe retired and arranged the great library at Holkham Hall, the seat of his friend Thomas Coke. The "Life" by his son, Henry Roscoe, (two volumes, London, 1906) contains full details of Roscoe's career. There are references to him in the "Autobiographical Sketches of De Quincey" and in Washington Irving's "Sketch Book." During the American Civil War (1861-65) Allerton Hall was rented by Charles Kuhn Prioleau, a large landowner from South Carolina who was a strong supporter of the Confederate States during the War (for business reasons Prioleau became a British subject). Prioleau was manager of Fraser, Trenholm & Co. in Liverpool and was married to a Liverpool woman, Mary Elizabeth Wright, whose father owned Allerton Hall. Prioleau, who was originally from Charleston, had begun helping the Confederacy even before the Civil War began. In December 1860 he presented the State of South Carolina with a "remarkable rifled canon, 12-pdr; superior to any other here..." The cannon was designed by Theophilus Alexander Blakely, a captain in the British Army, and was the first rifled cannon in the Americas. It was the only rifled cannon to take part in the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 and bore a plaque which read: "Presented to the Sovereign State of South Carolina by Citizens Residing Abroad, in Commemoration of the 20th of December, 1860." The gun was made in England and was sent to Illinois after its capture by Union forces. (In 1862-63 Prioleau built a Liverpool townhouse for himself at 19 Abercromby Square. This impressive house [which still stands] has the palmetto tree of South Carolina on the ceiling of its front porch and flags of the Rebel States on its walls. In the stonework on the front of the house are the stars of the secession flag, the Bonnie Blue. Prioleau also owned Balkail House, Carlisle, and a cottage outside of Liverpool.) In 1923 Allerton Hall was given to the City of Liverpool and used for a time as the offices of the Electricity Board; today the house is let as a restaurant. The House is noted for its fine 18th century paneled rooms.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, 1824.
Title: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, The
Year Published: 1994
Reference: pg. 8
Publisher: London: Scala Books
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections
Author: Waterfield, Giles; et al.
Year Published: 1998
Reference: pg. 25
Publisher: London: Royal Academy of Arts
Book Type: Softback
Title: Guide to the Country Houses of the North-West, A
Author: Robinson, John Martin
Year Published: 1991
Reference: pg. 151
Publisher: London: Constable and Company Limited
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade II*
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat of: John and James Hardman, early 18th century. William Roscoe, late 18th-early 19th centuries. Wright family, 19th century. Charles Kuhn Prioleau, mid-19th century.
Current Ownership Type: Government
Primary Current Ownership Use: Mixed Use
Ownership Details: Owned by the Liverpool Corporation and leased to a restaurant group who operate the Pub in the Park in the House, which is also available for functions.
House Open to Public: Yes
Historic Houses Member: No