Godfrey Allen, Surveyor to the Fabric between 1931 and 1956 (Ref. No. 1867)
Walter Godfrey Allen, usually known as Godfrey Allen, was Surveyor to the Fabric for the Cathedral from 1931 to 1956, as well as Commander of the St Paul's Watch during the Second World War.
Before being appointed as Surveyor, he had worked as assistant to the previous Surveyor, Sir Mervyn Macartney.
This meant he had a thorough understanding of the Cathedral building and its fabric, which was of course to be an invaluable asset to the Watch throughout the war - and later to the Friends.
An extract from the Chapter Minutes noting the appointment of Godfrey Allen as Surveyor to the Fabric, 14 February, 1931 (Ref. No. SPC/CM/6)
'A terrier for St Paul's'
Allen, the son of a draper, was born in Newport, Wales in 1891, and grew up in Devon and Somerset. After studying architecture at the School of Art at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, he was hired by the Cathedral in 1925.
Allen’s first project after being appointed Surveyor in 1931 was to protect historic views of St Paul’s from being blocked by the development of tall buildings, leading to the publication of the ‘St Paul’s Heights’ policy in 1937.
His efforts and determination to protect St Paul’s led the well-known architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to comment that Allen ‘fights like a terrier for St Paul’s’.
A note signed by Godfrey Allen, informing members of the St Paul's Watch on the amount of volunteer hours required to obtain a badge, 16th June 1944 (Ref. No. SPCAA/SPW3/24/7)
'A brilliant general'
This commitment to the Cathedral was visible in Allen's work as leader of the St Paul's Watch. Elected in August 1939, he proved to be, as one member of the Watch described, ‘a brilliant general, entirely calm’.
Dean Matthews later wrote:
‘He was qualified by an unrivalled knowledge of the building and his intense love for it...the appointment of Mr Allen was one of the wisest things that the Dean and Chapter ever did’.
The Cathedral Archives are full of documents produced by Allen that reflect his hard work: he wrote letters, organised rotas and training, chaired meetings, as well as doing his own shifts of duty. Paper was scarce during the Second World War so Allen re-used a number of the records from his time as assistant to Sir Mervyn, with many of his notes written on the reverse of records relating to boring and grouting!
The memorial to Godfrey Allen in the Cathedral Crypt (Ref. No. 1360)
Committed to the Friends
Along with other members of the Watch, Allen was one of the founding members of the Friends. As a member, he was active in writing for the ‘Record’ and giving lectures about the history of the Cathedral and the care of its fabric, and of course in his role as Surveyor, was pivotal in repairing the wartime damage to the Cathedral.
Allen stepped down from his role in 1956 at the age of 65. He had devoted over 30 years to St Paul’s. He died in 1986, aged 95. A memorial was unveiled at the Cathedral in November 1987.