Revd. Philip (Tubby) Clayton and Toc H

Picture: Statue of Tubby Claytonfounder of Talbot House at Poperinge by Filibertus. Sourced from Wikimedia and reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.Revd. Philip (Tubby) Clayton and Toc H. Philip (‘Tubby’) Clayton was Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower. However, he was best known for his work initially as an army chaplain during the First World War and in particular the establishment of Talbot House a unique place of rest and sanctuary for British troops. After the war the spirit and intent of Talbot House became expressed through the Toc H movement. We explore Philip Clayton’s contribution.

contents: introduction · talbot house · toc h · conclusion · appendix – the four points of the toc h compass · further reading and bibliography · links · how to cite this article

Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972), known to his friends as Tubby, was born December 12, 1885 in Queensland. At the age of two his parents returned to England. Educated at St Paul’s School in London and then at Exeter College, Oxford, he gained a First Class Degree in Theology. While reading for orders under the Dean of Westminster he became involved with the boys’ club work of the Oxford Medical Mission in Bermondsey. John Stansfeld (‘The Doctor’), the founder of the Mission, had, according to Philip Clayton, ‘passed like the Pied Piper, through the ‘Varsity and bidden us to the boys’ clubs at Dockhead, Gordon and Decima’ (quoted by Baron 1952: 206). He worked there one night a week, joining a remarkable group of workers that included Alec Paterson and Barclay ‘Barkis’ Baron (who was later to join the central staff of Toc H and edit the Toc H magazine).

Talbot House

In 1910 Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton became a curate to St Mary’s Portsea, where he remained until early in 1915. At this point he went to France as an Army Chaplain. In December 1915 he opened a soldier’s rest-house behind Allied lines in Belgium at Gasthuisstraat in autumn 1915 (assisted by fellow chaplain – Neville Talbot – another of the ‘Doctor’s men’). This house – Talbot House (or ‘Toc H’ in signaller’s jargon) – with its chapel in the hop loft at the top of the building, was experienced as a unique place of fellowship and sanctuary. It shared some similarities with the work of the YMCA huts that appeared in great numbers during the War. However, it also had something unique, something that flowed from the character of Clayton and the spirit of brotherhood he fosters. Friendships were formed across ranks – and many discovered a reality in religion for the first time (Rice and Prideaux-Brune 1990). The House remained open until spring 1918 when German advances brought it directly into the battle zone.

Such was the effect of the house, that a number of those who had passed through it wanted to re-create its atmosphere and ethos in peacetime. As Rice and Prideaux-Brune have commented it was two particular aspects that people want to preserve:

Firstly, there was the fellowship of Toc H, something deeper than the much-talked-of ‘comradeship of the trenches’. People found they could create real friendships with those who, in other circumstances, they would never have met. And they realized that such friendships could transform society. One of them wrote afterwards: ‘To conquer hate would be to end the strife of all the ages, but for men to know one another is not difficult, and it is half the battle’.

And then there was the impact of that Upper Room. The chapel was Anglican, but it was not narrowly denominational. The house was Christian, but it offered a welcome to all who entered it. And so those who entered it wanted to preserve a spirit which would overcome the hostility between the different Christian traditions, and would offer a place, within a Christian community, to those who had no clear Christian beliefs. (1990: 10)

It is easy to see why those involved with Oxford and Bermondsey such as Barclay Baron and Alexander Paterson would be part of such efforts. (Paterson and ‘other Bermondsey friends’ who were in services visited the House when they were close by). The ideals ran in parallel with their own concerns in Bermondsey.

Toc H

Immediately after the War Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton helped to prepare men for theological college at the Ordination Test School at Knutsford, Cheshire. Many soldiers had committed themselves to ordination during the hostilities. However, Philip Clayton had set himself the task of bringing about the rebirth of Toc H not as an ex-servicemen organization but an attempt to cultivate and sustain fellowship and an inclusive Christianity for future generations see Prideaux-Brune 1983).

The earliest statement of the aims of Toc H was drawn up by Tubby Clayton, the Rev ‘Dick’ Sheppard of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Alexander Patterson in 1920. The four points of the compass (as they became known) stressed:

1. FRIENDSHIP: To love widely.

2. SERVICE: To build bravely.

3. FAIRMINDEDNESS: To think fairly.

4. THE KINGDOM OF GOD: To witness humbly.

The first Toc H House to open after the war was in Kensington in 1919 (Talbot House Mark 1). Within a year other houses opened in London, Manchester (Toc H Mark 4) and Southampton (Toc H Mark 5). (It became customary to refer to the different houses as ‘marks’). As many people were often not within easy travelling distance of a house (mark), a network of local groups began to emerge (the first being recognized in 1921 in Cheltenham). Toc H was to grow into major movement developing a range of local groups and establishing a number of houses. It also spread to a number of other countries.

The spirit of the movement was captured by Alec Paterson, speaking to the first birthday festival of the movement in 1922:

What is Toc H? I can only say that it is just a gathering of young men who seek to rebuild a broken world with the mortar of comradeship and the bricks, the solid bricks, of personal service…. That is the first thing – that Toc H shall provide places where we can learn comradeship. Having learned that, we shall see enter those places the spirit of personal service, which is the negation of selfishness and boredom and the only sure road to happiness and knowledge….

It shall face fearlessly and without partisanship the great economic problems of the day, and help to solve the riddles of labour, industry and commerce. Toc H shall go far across the seas. It shall, by comradeship and service, bring peace to those places where there is still bitterness, and light to those places where there is still darkness. My fellow-members, ours is a task that knows no limits. It is not an easy task, but it is not one beyond our endurance. There is no true comradeship without surrender, no true service without sacrifice. We hope to carry on a holy and ceaseless war against pride and snobbery wherever we meet them…. In the spirit of Jesus Christ we are joined together, and we shall go forward, setting our course not by the waves but by the stars. (Quoted by Baron 1952: 209)

As the Toc H movement grew, so the work developed. ‘Projects’ such as work camps for young people began emerge – and various efforts at developing different forms of youth provision. A women’s league was formed. Within the movement there was an emphasis upon passing on the ethos and atmosphere of comradeship and service to next generation. Toc H was also a significant force for ecumenicalism and social action by the churches. By the time of the Second World it was in a position to run a network of services’ clubs

Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton remained active within the movement. In 1922 he was asked to be Vicar of All Saints by the Tower – where he stayed for forty years. He worked hard to bring new life into the church and campaigned for environmental improvement (this resulted, in part, in the establishment of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust in 1932). During the 1920s Clayton was also active in travelling throughout the country (and the Empire) helping to launch and sustain local branches of Toc H. In 1932 he went to west Africa and was deeply moved by his experience of leper colonies. On his return he set about encouraging volunteers (many of whom were members of Toc H) to volunteer for unpaid work with lepers. During the Second World War he spent a great deal of time at sea in his role as Chaplain to the Anglo-Iranian Line. In 1940 All Hallows was bombed and required rebuilding. In 1962 Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton resigned as Vicar but remained on Tower Hill until his death in December 1972, just after his 87th birthday


Today Toc H is not as big as it was – but there are still 150 Toc H groups and 55 projects. There is also still a network of houses – Talbot Centres – that offer a range of facilities, often oriented to activity breaks and residentials. The original Talbot House at Poperinge is open both as a residential and conference house and as a museum.

Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton could not of imagined when he first opened Talbot House at Poperinge that its spirit would develop as it did. The ‘innkeeper’ of Talbot House set in train a unique movement that impacted not only on its members but on the church through its ecumenicalism and concern with social action, and upon significant numbers of young people.

Appendix: TOC H the four points of the compass

Revised in 1936 and again in 1967, to read as follows:

1. FRIENDSHIP: To love widely.

To provide members with opportunities to develop a spirit of understanding and reconciliation.

Members are called on:-

To welcome all in friendship, To lessen by habit of thought, word and deed the prejudices which divide people,

To see the needs of others as their own.

2. SERVICE: To build bravely.

To enable members, with their varying gifts, to serve their fellows.

Members are called on:-

To give personal service,

To study local and international conditions and their effect on others, and by their example to challenge their neighbours to seek the way of Christ.

3. FAIRMINDEDNESS: To think fairly.

To bring to members the knowledge and experience of others.

Members are called on:-

To listen always to the views of others,

To find their own convictions,

To influence public opinion so that conflict may be lessened by sympathetic and intelligent understanding.

4. THE KINGDOM OF GOD: To witness humbly.

To work for a better world through the example of friendship, service and fairmindedness.

Members are called on:-

To acknowledge the spiritual nature of man,

To practise the Christian way of life,

To help the truth prevail.

Further reading and bibliography

Clayton, P. T. (1919) Tales of Talbot House – : everyman’s club in Poperinghe of Ypres, 1915-1918, London: Chatto and Windus.

Clayton, P. T. B (1960) Talbot House to Tower Hill. An anthology of the writings of the Reverend P. B.-‘Tubby’-Clayton Compiled by John Durham, London: Toc H.

Prideaux-Brune, K. (1983) A Living Witness – personal memoir of Philip Clayton, Wendover: Toc H. An extract from the introduction can be found at:

Rice, J. and Prideaux-Brune, K. (1990) Out of A Hop Loft. Seventy-five years of Toc H, London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Toc H (1935) The Story of Toc H: A venture of youth, London: Toc H.


Toc H – the movement’s main website

Talbot House – a living museum

Acknowledgement: Photograph – Cooper’s Row EC3 and a plaque to Tubby Clayton was sourced from Wikimedia and listed as being in the public domain. The Statue of Tubby Claytonfounder of Talbot House at Poperinge by Filibertus. Sourced from Wikimedia and reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

How to cite this article: Smith, M. K. (2004). ‘Philip “Tubby” Clayton and TocH’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [ Retrieved insert date]

© Mark K. Smith 2004