London Wonders – All Hallows Church, the last story

I would like to write one more story about that wonderful church I visited recently – the All Hallows by the Tower, which is in the City of London.

My wonderful guy stopped near this effigy in the middle part of the church.

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Judging by the dates on the effigy this man died recently so it’s not all that “historical”,- I thought to myself –  but obviously  this man was so important for the church that his tomb is so proudly displayed here. Who was he?

This man was called The Reverend Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (known as “Tubby Clayton”). He was an Anglican clergyman, the vicar of this church for 40 years and the founder of Toc H.

Philip 'Tubby' Clayton in the "Talbout House", Poperinge, Belgium, where the Toc H started

Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton in the “Talbout House”, Poperinge, Belgium, where the Toc H started

Erm… what is Toc H then? My kind guide was as helpful as ever.

The story goes that when Tubby Clayton was an army chaplain in Belgium during WW1 he opened a soldiers’ rest and recreation centre named Talbot House (named in memory of Gilbert Talbot, son of  Bishop of Winchester, who had been killed at Hooge in July 1915).

Talbot House was styled as an “Every Man’s Club”, where all soldiers were welcome, regardless of their rank. It was “an alternative for the ‘debauched’ recreational life of the town”. Instead of going off to taverns and pubs, getting drunk and engaging in brawls, the soldiers or officers could come into this house and have some quality rest, write letters home and have any help they needed.

Tubby ensured the house was open to men and officers alike. He created a library where soldiers could check-out a book by leaving their cap behind as a ticket. Tubby was a shrewd man and knew 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.

It was a unique rest house – simply because there was nothing like it before. For most of the Great War Talbot House offered an oasis of sanity to the men passing through Poperinge

The soldiers called it Toc H’ in signaler’s jargon

This followed the foundation of a new Toc H House in Kensington in 1919, followed by others in London, Manchester, and Southampton. The Toc H movement continued to grow in numbers and established, also, a women’s league.

Branches of Toc H were established in many countries around the world.

In the Lady Chapel in the church is the so called Croke Altar on which the casket containing the Toc H lamp, given to the movement in 1922 by Edward, Prince of Wales is still standing

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Tubby Clayton always had a dog called Chippie. When the dog died he was given another one of the same breed and he called it the same name. So the dog laying at his feet on the effigy is Chippie III. And I know it because…

When my guide was telling us the story (and by that time we had a group of followers) suddenly one of the ladies from the crowd said: “I knew Tubby and his dog! This is Chippie!”

Of, my God! What?! Really?!

“Yes, – she continued – my husband and I used to know the vicar and we worked with him in Toc H”.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. You hear a story, you think it was all the deeds of days gone by – and all of a sudden it becomes so real because here is the witness and the participant of the history itself  standing in front of you!

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Ant with this wonderful story I am concluding my visit of the All Hallows by the Tower church, the wonder of all wonders in London.

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