Mrs H. Warner-Allen

George+Mum (2)
Ethel Warner-Allen and her son George[1]
Ethel, Mrs H. Warner Allen, née Pemberton, 52, (1880-1974) was the wife of Herbert Warner-Allen, war journalist, oenologist and writer, and mother of George Warner-Allen artist.  An engaging raconteur, she enjoyed the theatre – and the Warner-Allens were fond of dogs, as we shall see.

Seated Beside…

We assume besides her husband Herbert and, we have suggested, alongside Marguerite Raven-Hill, the other mother on the table. A theatre-goer, she may have enjoyed a chat with actress Laura Wallis Mills about the recent shows.

What’s On Her Mind?

We may assume that Ethel is looking forward to a rather special evening in the company of rather special people. In the unlikely event that conversation lapsed she may have regaled the company with the antics of her dog, or the time she first switched on an electric light…..

Ethel’s Story So Far

Ethel Pemberton was born on 16th June 1880 in Coventry, to Alice Ethel Copson (1859 – 2.6.1939), born in Worcester, a daughter of a china painter, and Warwick Pemberton (1859 – 1896), variously a manufacturer, ironmonger and horse collar maker. Ethel had a brother, five years her junior, Warwick Geoffrey Travers Pemberton, a chartered accountant.

George's M+D lhs in Oxford
Ethel, with dog, Herbert and her parents at their engagement dinner in Oxford at his rooms [1]
After her father died in 1896, Ethel lived with her mother at 48 Wellington Square, Oxford (her brother then boarding at Christ’s Hospital School, Newgate, London). .

Herbert and Ethel married in Paris on 22nd September 1908, though no record shows up in any of the 20 arrondissements of Paris itself.  By 1911 her mother was living in Earl’s Court with her son.[2]  They had one son, George Woronzow Allen (born at the American Hospital , Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, 30.1.1916 – 1988), an artist of the Neo-Romantic School. [3] At the time of their son’s birth they were living on the Paris Left Bank at 21 rue Casimir Perier, 7th arrondissement, Paris, her mother at 82 rue de Grenelle, also in the 7th arrondissement. At the time of the dinner Ethel and Herbert (or simply Warner to most people – we use both according to context), and their dog Dan, lived at 8 Bloomfield Terrace, S.W.1.

Edith by Laura Anning Bell c1920
Edith, by Laura Anning Bell c 1920

In the early 1920’s Edith sat for the portraitist Laura Anning Bell, née Richard, whose work (mainly in pastels) hangs in the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery. Born in France of English parents, Laura studied in Paris under Robert-Fleury and at the Slade School under Legros. She exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1897, winning an Honourable Mention 1902 and Bronze and Silver Medals 1913 and 1920 and also exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1921. The French connection may well have been behind the choice of artist.

Whilst we don’t have a lot of detail on the life of Ethel, family members describe her as being very engaging, a great raconteur, who would remember the first electric light that she switched on. We may assume she might have enjoyed the one week “jolly” in 1929 when the United Associations of Great Britain and France met up in Cannes at Easter, a party of almost 100 taking the train, including the Lord Mayors and Mayoresses of York, Cardiff, Manchester and Norwich and the Warner Allens.[2]

Thanks to the conditioned reflexes of the dog Dan, we do have one anecdote that gives us one hint as to the life she liked to lead. A letter to The Times in September of 1932 explains:

The Times 26th September 1932 p8


TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES Sir, A tale of conditioned reflexes! Some time ago, I returned late from work, as a journalist is wont to do. My dog, a cross-bred Irish and Yorkshire terrier, otherwise a quaint mongrel, called Dan, met me on the step and went for his walk. When we came in, I carried out the traditional ritual of putting the chain on the door and expected him to carry out his part in the programme i.e., to run upstairs and curl up in his basket on the landing. To my amazement Dan lay down on guard in front of the door and would not budge. I cursed him mildly and told him to go to bed, but he just growled at me contemptuously. He was so obstinate that I left him and went upstairs. There I discovered that my wife was not in her room as I had expected. She had gone out to the theatre with friends. I came down and took the chain off the door. Instantly Dan went to bed and gave his mistress a vociferous welcome when she used her latchkey half an hour later. Yours. &c.. H. WARNER ALLEN. 8, Bloomfield Terrace, S.W.1. [4]

Bloomfield Terrace

Perhaps Warner should have written “The Dog that didn’t go to Bed at Night” mystery thriller

What Ethel Did Next

We may assume she accompanied Herbert to more dinners and went to more plays. She may well be, of course, the tower of strength behind Herbert as he writes and publishes, and as is often the way, perhaps his literary output benefitted from her own storytelling skills.

puzzle-piece2-50 Can anyone tell us more about Ethel Warner Allen, née Pemberton?

At Iden House, seated left with Herbert, their son George standing, left, with dog, circa 1955[1]
Ethel died on 15th November 1974, six years after Herbert, at their home Iden House, Sotwell, Wallingford, Berkshire. Her son George Woronzow Warner Allen, and her father-in-law George Warner Woronzow Allen, both died in 1988, the latter a centenarian.


[1] With many thanks to Sheralyn and Jonathan for generously providing the Warner-Allen family photographs.  Reproduced with permission.

[2] Sources: and for marriage Morning Post 24.9.1908

[3] Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 30.3.1929

[4] The Times, 26.9.1932 p8

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