George Allen's escritoire

We've welcomed the office of the past into the present with the arrival of a desk originally owned by our founder, George Allen.

22-05_escritoire_george-escritoire-vertical.jpgThe desk, officially known as an escritoire, was a gift to the firm from the Allen family and has been lovingly restored to bring it back to its former glory. An escritoire is a writing desk with compartments and draws concealed by a hinged flap. George was clearly a man ahead of his time for this escritoire offers the user the opportunity to sit or stand. Lead weights in the back ensure the escritoire remains upright, but they make it a heavy piece of furniture at over 250kgs.

The escritoire was made in Europe and brought to Australia by boat in the 1830s for George Allen to use as his personal desk. To keep jewellery and documents safe from prying eyes, it has several secret drawers. In those were found a few ink nibs and a small ladies ring.

George Allen was born in London in 1800. He arrived in the colony of New South Wales in 1816, after a six-month journey by boat with his mother and siblings. The family was following George's stepfather who had arrived as a convict a few years earlier.

When George arrived, he was granted legal training with one of only two solicitors in the colony and he became the first person to complete legal training in Australia. After five years as an articled clerk George began his own legal practice. His firm evolved into the Allens we know today.

George arrived in Australia with very little, but eight years later he wrote in his journal, 'Not two years ago I was only a clerk to Mr Garling with little or no prospect of succeeding in life – my path appeared gloomy – my way dark and dreary… now I have a house of my own, a flourishing business… and have the prospect of doing well.' The purchase of the escritoire would have been part of his investment into his future and one of the benefits of his flourishing business.

The firm's first office was in a cottage in Elizabeth Street. The property backed onto Phillip Street, just across the road from Allens' current Sydney office. The firm remained there for 70 years. When the escritoire first arrived in Sydney it would have been delivered to the cottage in Elizabeth Street. Now it is back, almost to where it first began service.


A closer look at George Allen's escritoire

There are many delightful surprises to be found in this 200-year-old desk belonging to our firm's founder. Resident historian Jillian Maxwell shows us one in the below video. 

A glimpse into our history

A global platform: Joining forces with Linklaters

Ten years ago, on 1 May 2012, Allens and Linklaters formed a global alliance to enhance and expand our offering to our people and clients. Since then, more than 200 people have enjoyed global career opportunities through the alliance and we have worked together on thousands of matters spanning the world. Here is where it all began...

The launch of World Series Cricket

The summer holidays mean one thing for many Australians: cricket. Heading to a day-night match and watching the brightly coloured teams smacking the ball into the crowd is what we've come to expect. But, it wasn't always like this and Allens played a big part in transforming the game of cricket into what it is today.

George Allen's escritoire

We've welcomed the office of the past into the present with the arrival of a desk originally owned by our founder, George Allen. The desk, officially known as an escritoire, was a gift to the firm from the Allen family and has been lovingly restored to bring it back to its former glory.

Upholding the right to vote

In 2006, the Howard Government introduced significant changes to Australia's voting laws through the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth). Among the changes contained in the legislation was the denial of voting rights to all people in prison.

The book that changed Australia

Today we take for granted our ability to read any book we choose, but it wasn't long ago that Australia had some of the most severe censorship regulations in the Western world. Allens played a pivotal role in changing this and bringing an end to literary censorship in Australia.

Hard to find – but worth the hunt

One of the frustrations of historical research is knowing something exists but being unable to locate it. That was the case with letters from Allen Allen & Hemsley to client Angus & Robertson. The letters related to the copyright of several works by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson, including The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses.

Lawyers draft wills better than authors

When legal practices were first established in Australia, a significant portion of their work involved the management of complex wills and estates. However, over time, the founding firms of Allens shifted their focus from managing family estates and trusts to become predominantly commercial practices. This is the story of the firm's involvement in celebrated author Nevil Shute's will.

Hidden treasures

Research for the Allens history book has turned up a variety of interesting items, among them a hand-drawn map of Brisbane from 1849 and a mallet used by founder George Allen in 1859 to lay the foundation stone for a new chapel in Newtown, Sydney.

First true civil libel case in Australia

In 1817, 16-year-old George Allen was just a few months into his legal training when he found himself amidst one of the most interesting legal cases in the colony of New South Wales. George had just entered his articles of clerkship with Frederick Garling when Garling was appointed to represent defendant John Thomas Campbell in the first true civil libel case in Australia.

Helping Bush Heritage preserve precious land

Since 1995, Allens has committed thousands of hours of expertise to helping Bush Heritage with its vision of healthy Country, protected forever. This includes 14ha of land in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania, which former Australian Senator Bob Brown gifted to the organisation in 2011 with support from Allens.

Seeking justice for the Stolen Generation

Right from the start, almost 200 years ago, Allens has shown support for Australia's Indigenous communities and, in 1996, we helped pave the way towards the National Apology through our involvement in the first Stolen Generation legal trials.

Supporting critical Australian infrastructure

17 October 1949 marked the official start of what is still considered one of the largest and most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in Australia – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

It all started in 1822

Allens was founded on 22 July 1822, the day 21-year-old George Allen was admitted as an attorney and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and became the first person to complete their full legal training in Australia. When he began his small legal practice in a cottage on Elizabeth Street in Sydney, he could not have foreseen the story that would follow.