Mr Colin Evans has recently brought to the attention of the editor that there was a branch of Toc H in Resolven until the 1970s. Below is a synopsis of this rather esoterically named Christian organization with its roots in the horrors of the Great War of 1914-18 .
Toc H (TH) is an international Christian movement. The name is an abbreviation for Talbot House, 'Toc' signifying the letter T in the signals spelling alphabet used by the British Army in World War I. A soldiers' rest and recreation centre named Talbot House was founded in December 1915 at Poperinghe, Belgium. It aimed to promote Christianity and was named in memory of Gilbert Talbot, son of Edward Talbot, then Bishop of Winchester, who had been killed at Hooge in July 1915. The founders were Gilbert's elder brother Neville Talbot, then a senior army chaplain, and the Reverend Philip Thomas Byard (Tubby) Clayton. Talbot House was styled as an "Every Man's Club", where all soldiers were welcome, regardless of rank. It was "an alternative for the 'debauched' recreational life of the town".
|Talbot House |
In 1920, Clayton founded a Christian youth centre in London, also called Toc H, which developed into an interdenominational
association for Christian social service.
The original building at Poperinghe has been maintained and redeveloped as amuseum
Branches of Toc H were established in many countries around the world. An Australian branch was formed in Victoria in 1925
by the heretical Rev Herbert Hayes
Another was formed in Adelaide
the same year.
Toc H members seek to ease the burdens of others through acts of service. They also promote reconciliation and work to bring disparate sections of society together. Branches may organise localised activities such as hospital visits, entertainment for the residents of care homes and organising residential holidays for special groups.
The organisation suffered a progressive decline in membership and closure of branches during the later 20th century. In 2008, continued operation was ensured by dispensing with paid staff. In the 21st century, Toc H trustees have planned for it to become a stronger, voluntary movement still guided by the ethos of the original Talbot House.
At the outbreak of World War I Neville Talbot
, a senior Church of England chaplain in the British Army, sought to recruit chaplains who would minister to the battalions on the front lines. One of his recruits was the Reverend Phillip Byard Clayton, who was assigned to the East Kent and Bedfordshire regiments. In 1915 Clayton was sent to France and then on to the town of Poperinge in Belgium.
Sitting a few miles back from the trenches around Ypres
(nowadays known by its Flemish name Ieper
(or "Pops", as the soldiers called it) was a busy transfer station where troops on their way to and from the battlefields of Flanders
were billeted. Clayton, universally known as "Tubby", was instructed by Neville Talbot to set up some sort of rest house for the troops.
Clayton chose the Coevoet house – temporarily vacated by its owner, a wealthy local hop merchant - to use as his base, paying rent of 150 francs a month. The house had received significant damage from shellfire, especially the hop loft and the garden. Repairs were begun in September by the Royal Engineers. It opened on 11 December 1915.
Clayton decided to steer away from the traditional church club and set up an Everyman’s House. It was named Talbot House in honour of Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot (Neville’s brother) who had been killed earlier in the year. Of course, soldiers being soldiers, Talbot House soon became known by its initials TH, and then, in the radio signallers’ parlance of the day as Toc H.
The focus of religious services and devotions was a chapel created in the attic, known as the "Upper Room". After the war's end, in 1918,
The spirit of friendship fostered at Toc H across social and denominational boundaries inspired Clayton, the Rev. Dick Sheppard
to set out in 1920 what became known as the Four points of the Toc H compass
- 1. Friendship ("To love widely")
- 2. Service ("To build bravely")
- 3. Fairmindedness ("To think fairly")
- 4. The Kingdom of God ("To witness humbly")
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.
(Taken from a Wikipedia Entry)
Colin is interested into how many memories of Toc H in Resolven still remain - stories, photographs, cuttings etc. It was certainly a product of its time, which also produced the Women's Institute