Toc H – An Unexpected Discovery

Toc H – An Unexpected Discovery.

My cousin, Dave, and I went to the City of London a few days ago to search for Roman remains. We found some rather fine Roman walls and floors and if you want to read about them and see the photos, you can find them here in a previous post.

Founder of Toc H, Tubby Clayton's blue plaque
Founder of Toc H, Tubby Clayton’s blue plaque

But we also made a rather unexpected discovery which started when we spotted a blue plaque as we were walking along Cooper’s Row, EC3. The house – 43 Trinity Square – has a blue plaque dedicated to Reverend P.T.B. ‘Tubby’ Clayton, 1885 – 1972, Founder of Toc H. I’d never heard of Tubby Clayton although I had heard of the movement in connection with Christian youth work.

Dave and I carried on to All Hallows by the Tower Church where we suddenly found all sorts of links to Tubby Clayton – hardly surprising because he had been vicar of All Hallows from 1922 until his retirement in 1962. But there were also links to Toc H, including the Lamp of Maintenance.

Toc H Lamp of Maintenance
Toc H Lamp of Maintenance

Here is the information which we found in the church about Tubby Clayton:

“The Reverend Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (known as ‘Tubby’) was an Anglican clergyman, the founder of Toc H and vicar of All Hallows for forty years. Born in Australia, he obtained a First in Theology at Oxford, and was ordained a priest in the Church of England. He then became an army chaplain in Flanders, where in 1915, he and another chaplain, Reverend Neville Talbot, opened Talbot House, a rest house for soldiers in Poperinge, Belgium. It was soon immensely popular and dear to those who visited, becoming known as Toc H, this being signal terminology for ‘T’ ‘H’ or ‘Talbot House’.

In 1922, on Tubby’s installation as vicar, All Hallows became the guild church of the newly formed Toc H movement, whose ideals of service and comradeship grew into an international philanthropic organisation. The Lamp of Maintenance still stands in the Lady Chapel in the north aisle. Its founder’s effigy (along with his little dog, Chippie) is nearby and his ashes are laid in the Undercroft Chapel, along with many others associated with Toc H.”

Later that day, Dave and I crossed London Bridge to Southwark Cathedral and were surprised to find that it also had a link to Toc H because Reverend Neville Talbot was son of Edward Stuart Talbot, who once held the posts of Bishop of Rochester, Southwark and Winchester. His tomb is in Southwark Cathedral with a bronze effigy on top.

On returning home, I looked up Toc H and found this:

Poperinge, Belgium, was a busy transfer station where troops on their way to and from the battlefields of Flanders were billeted. Tubby was instructed by his senior chaplain, Neville Talbot, to set up some sort of rest house for the troops, so he rented a hop merchant’s house, temporarily vacated by its owner – to use as his base. He decided to steer away from the traditional church club and set up an Everyman’s House. It was named Talbot House in honour of Gilbert Talbot (Neville’s brother) who had been killed earlier in the year. It opened on 11 Dec 1915.

Tubby ensured the house was open to men and officers alike, the motto being: “All Rank Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here”. He created a library where soldiers could check-out a book by leaving their cap behind as a ticket, well aware that no soldier would dare report for duty without a cap so he always got his books back. There was a large kitchen where much tea was consumed, a beautiful walled garden where men could sit and forget about the war for a while, and eventually, in the attic hop loft, a chapel where regular services were held. It was this chapel or Upper Room which became a focal point for many and was known as the ‘heart’ of the House. Some had their confirmation here and many attended their first communion in this special place. Sadly, for many, their last communion would be held here. If you’d like to read more, click here to go to the website

In several weeks, I will be travelling to Ypres, Belgium. I’m not sure if I’ll have the opportunity to visit Talbot House although I would like to. In my next post, I’ll tell you why I’m going to Ypres.