John Allen was a local historian and School Attendance Officer. He wrote a guide book for Towneley in 1909 that was reprinted with only minor changes for the next 50 years. He collecteded old documents and paintings of Burnley including work by Stocks Austerberry.
In May 1911, he curated an Old Burnley exhibition to celebrate the Burnley Corporation Jubilee. When he died later that year, the sub-committee purchased his collection from his widow.
He died in October 1911. There was an obituary in the Burnley Gazette, October 4th 1911, page 5, col. 3.