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What is Talbot House?

All rank abandon ye who enter here.

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Talbot House then

During the First World War, the small, quiet town of Poperinge in Belgium was overrun with the business of war. As the town was located on the main route to Ypres and the Western Front, there was a constant flow of soldiers, supplies lorries and trains.

Over the course of the War, millions of men passed through, either on their way to the front or returning battle weary and exhausted. The town became overrun with soldiers, all looking for relief and respite from the trenches.

In 1915, after a close call with a German shrapnel shell, a house was rented to the 6th division of the British army. It was here that Chaplain Philip “Tubby” Clayton opened a soldier’s club, “Talbot House” – an Everyman’s Club.

In the darkness of the First World War, it was a beacon. A haven, where rank did not matter; a place of friendship, comfort and reflection, “an oasis of serenity in a world gone mad”.

A place for all

The sign that hung above the door read “All rank abandon ye who enter here.”

Anyone who entered did so as a human being and not as a soldier or an officer. Orders were prohibited; Tubby insisted that Talbot House should be a place where people could forget about the war – even if for just a moment.

The kettle was always on, there was always someone to chat to and there was always a quiet space to reflect.

Over the course of the War, more than half a million soldiers visited the House. During the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, it was visited by 5000 men per week.

And on one day more than 4000 cups of tea were served.

Talbot House Now

After the War many soldiers returned to Flanders, Poperinge and Talbot House.

They were looking for an opportunity to reflect, reconcile and make some sense of what happened. They wanted to say goodbye to lost friends, to remember and honour their sacrifice.

Wives, mothers, daughters and sisters also came to find their loved ones’ final resting places. Just as he did during the War, Tubby offered comfort and support to all.

Talbot House continued to provide a refuge for visitors in the same way it did for the soldiers during the War. These pilgrimages continue today.

Other museums show the deaths of the First World War, the machinery, the madness, the landscape destroyed.

Talbot House is different. It celebrates life and hope against heavy odds.

At Talbot House you can stand where British and Commonwealth Soldiers stood one hundred years ago and see what they saw. You can hear the piano, drink tea and find peace in the garden.

Talbot House is precious. It is about the dreams of half a million men, the power of civilization against madness.

Please Support their dreams by making a donation today


Tubby Clayton

Philip Thomas Byard Clayton, nicknamed “Tubby”, was born in Queensland, Australia in 1885. After returning to England, he went to St Paul’s School in London followed by Exeter College, Oxford, where he gained a Degree in Theology. Tubby started working as a curate at St Mary’s Church in Portsea. It was a working-class parish and had a tradition of pastoral work among men and boys. In 1915 he became an army chaplain, and went to the French Port and British hospital, Le Tréport.

Later that year, Tubby was transferred to Poperinge, in Flanders, which was only a few miles away from the Western Front.

He worked with another chaplain, Rev. Neville Talbot and together they established Talbot House, a Christian rest and recreation centre for all the War’s soldiers, regardless of their rank.

Tubby had experienced an eventful War in Talbot House and on returning to England, he published “Tales of Talbot House”.

In 1922 Tubby became vicar of All Hallows by the Tower, in the City of London.

He spent the rest of his life promoting the values of the House around the world and established Toc H. In 1965 he became an honorary citizen of Poperinge and in 1972 Tubby Clayton died at the age of 87.