William Allen (Royal Navy officer)

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Rear-Admiral William Allen FRS (25 November 1792 – 23 January 1864) was an English naval officer and explorer.

William Allen, 1848 engraving.

Allen was born 25 November 1792 in Pimlico, London and entered the Royal Navy as Volunteer 1st Class on H.M.S.Naiad in 1804. Died 23 January 1864 in Bank House, Weymouth, Dorset, buried Melcombe Regis, Dorset 30 January 1864

He was involved in fighting the African slave trade, and took part in three expeditions to West Africa: in 1832 he went up the River Niger with Richard Lemon Lander and Macgregor Laird, and he also commanded a vessel in the Niger expedition of 1841. He was an artist and painted scenes of his travels. His maps of the River Niger enabled the remaining ships crews to sail safely back to sea after many were lost due to fever.

Allen collected the type specimen of Allen's gallinule (a small waterbird) near the River Niger. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society.


In 1848, Allen with Thomas Richard Heywood Thomson published, in two volumes as A Narrative of the Expedition sent by H.M.'s Government to the River Niger in 1841. In 1849 he travelled through Syria and Palestine, and published the results in two volumes (1855) as The Dead Sea, a New Route to India, with other Fragments and Gleanings in the East, in which he advocated the construction of a canal between the Mediterranean and Red Sea by the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea, and compared that route with the proposed Suez Canal.[1]

In 1846 Allen published a pamphlet on Mutual Improvement, advocating the institution of good-conduct prizes to be awarded by ballot by the community divided for the purpose into small groups; and in 1849 a Plan for the immediate Extinction of the Slave Trade, for the Relief of the West India Colonies, and for the Diffusion of Civilisation and Christianity in Africa by the co-operation of Mammon with Philanthropy, a scheme of compulsory "apprenticeship" or "temporary bondage". Allen also brought out two volumes of Picturesque Views on Ascension Island (1838) and the River Niger (1840), with papers in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vols. vii. viii. xiii. and xxiii. Some of his landscape paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy, from 1828 to 1847.[1]


  1. ^ a b  "Allen, William (1793-1864)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Allen, William (1793-1864)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.