Hidden treasures

Intriguing artefacts

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.

When Robert Little arrived in Moreton Bay (now Brisbane) in 1846 it was home to 1,599 colonists and an estimated 2,000 local Indigenous people. Little established one of the first legal practices in the area – a practice which would become known as Feez Ruthning and merge with Sydney-based Allen Allen & Hemsley in 1996. Over the next twenty-five years the town became a thriving metropolis and the population grew to over 125,000.

Property in Moreton Bay became much sought after, and Little developed a compendious knowledge of property transactions in the district. Subsequently he became indispensable to those wishing to buy and sell property in the area. This explains how the firm came to hold an early hand drawn map of 'The Town of Brisbane, County of Stanley' from 1849. The map shows subdivisions along the Brisbane River, in Eagle Farm and North Brisbane, noting the owners of many of the plots of land.

A section of the 1849 map of Brisbane

The firm also holds a mallet used by founder George Allen to lay the foundation stone for a new Wesleyan chapel in Newtown, Sydney in 1859. George Allen was known for his charitable pursuits and was an active in the Wesleyan Missionary Society, holding the position of treasurer for fifty years.

From around 1840, church services were held in small cottages in Newtown but on 30 August 1859 the first stone was laid for the construction of a new chapel on nearby King Street to accommodate the growing congregation. George Allen was given the honour of laying the first stone.

A bottle was deposited underneath the stone bearing a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire newspapers from the day, along with a copy of the Wesley Record and a document outlining the proceedings of the day, a list of attendees and details of the parish. Among them was colonial secretary Charles Cowper – his grandson Sir Norman Cowper would come to play an influential role in the firm's history. It is assumed the bottle still lies beneath the foundation stone.

It was noted in the Sydney Morning Herald the following day that George Allen 'laid the stone with the customary forms in a workman like manner' and said: 'I lay this stone as the foundation stone of a temple for the worship of the Triune God'. It was winter and perhaps George Allen felt the formalities had gone on long enough because he concluded his comments by saying 'After the long and comprehensive prayer offered by Mr Kent [Reverend S C Kent], it is unnecessary for me to make any additional remarks to that prayer, therefore, I shall simply say amen.'

At the conclusion of the formalities the mallet and silver trowel used in the proceedings were presented to George Allen. It is not known what became of the trowel.

Map of 'The Town of Brisbane, County of Stanley' from 1849

The mallet used by George Allen to lay the foundation stone for the Wesleyan Chapel in Newtown in 1859

The Wesleyan Chapel in Newtown, c.1907

A glimpse into our history

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.

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.

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.

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.