He was born in Bishopsgate in 1566 to a publican father. By 1600 he was the owner and manager of the Fortune Theatre having retired from acting until the Queen herself, reputedly, insisted on his return to the stage.
At the age of forty-seven, Alleyn bought the manorial estate of Dulwich from Sir Francis Calton. After contemplating the foundation of a hospital, Alleyn eventually decided to establish a school which he called, ‘Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift’, now Dulwich College.
Alleyn’s bequest established clear principles by which the College should be governed. Sound learning, strong artistic pursuits and good manners were among the values he exhorted his successors to maintain. Another important attribute of the school was its favouring of ‘poor scholars’, so that a full education might be available to all, irrespective of social background and financial resources.