Born on 2 September 1862 in Greenford, Middlesex, England, Allen was educated at the Palace School, Enfield, the 'Lambeth' school of Art, and the Royal Academy. He entered the latter in 1887 and studied there for five years.
Allen began his professional career as an apprentice in 1879 to the architectural sculpture company Farmer & Brindley in south London and from 1890 to 1894 worked as a modeller for Sir Hamo Thornycroft.
From 1894 to 1905 Allen taught sculpture and modelling at the City of Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Arts. In 1899, he married Ethel Margaret Eaton, daughter of Captain Alfred Eaton R.N. and Margaret Emily Williams. A year later his work Love and the Mermaid won a gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition (1900).
Allen's most notable public sculpture is perhaps that of the monument to Queen Victoria in Derby Square, Liverpool (1902-06). He was also later responsible for the memorial to the Right Honourable Samuel Smith in Sefton Park, Liverpool (1909).
Between 1905 and 1927 Allen taught at the Liverpool City School of Art. Retiring from teaching, he later moved to Albury, near Guildford, Surrey. Allen died on 10 January 1956.
Artists' Papers Register, Person Authority Record, GB/NNAF/P37199, Allen, Charles John (1862-1956) [accessed 29 August 2008]
Clough, Matthew H., ed., C.J. Allen 1862-1956: Sculptor and Teacher (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005)
The University of Liverpool, Arts and Heritage Collection, 'CJ Allen' [accessed 29 August 2008]
The University of Liverpool, Special Collections and Archives, Papers of and about Charles John Allen, 'Administrative / Biographical History' [accessed 29 August 2008]