Tubby at Portsea

The life story of Phillip Thomas Byard Clayton, known widely as Tubby, has been told in some detail in three well written biographies; his time at Talbot House and with Toc H documented in many different books and journals. However, I sometimes feel his four and a half years as a Curate at Portsea is not given as much attention as it deserves. This blog looks in a little more depth at what Tubby got up to whilst he was there. Perhaps it was no more or less than any other Curate might do whilst he is ‘learning his trade’ but this is our Tubby and its worth understanding how this posting helped shape the founder of the most amazing Movement in the world.

Tubby at Oxford

Tubby Underway

Avoiding Theological college (Something he would later claim to be most grateful about) Tubby got a first class BA at Oxford in 1909 (but let us not dwell on his 3rd Class in Classic Mods. along the way). From here he took a teaching post at Colet Court, his old junior school at St Paul’s, and did some work on Fleet Street thanks to his friend G.K. Chesterton, a fellow Pauline. He then took a research post under Dr Armitage Robinson, the Dean of Westminster.

His most significant work here was a paper on The Inlaid Tiles of Westminster Abbey which was read before the Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in October 1910. It would later be published in pamphlet form by that organisation.

Tubby Takes Holy Orders

Tubby was admitted into Holy Orders as a Deacon by John Randolph, Bishop of Guildford, in Farnham Parish Chapel on the 18th December 1910. He was posted to St Mary’s, Portsea in Hampshire, not far from the family home at Beaulieu, to serve as a curate under Canon Bernard Wilson. St Mary’s had a large staff and by all accounts an athletic one; they had once beaten the Australian Test team at cricket. Tubby was nervous about this as he didn’t consider that he had much sporting prowess. The story goes that when he went to see Wilson for his interview he was up against another candidate who was an excellent sportsman. Tubby was resigned to being turned down but as he entered the clergy house he heard raised voices as Wilson learned that his favoured candidate had had the audacity to become engaged. Tubby was elevated to favourite and recruited as the most junior member of a staff of eighteen clergy. He was 25 years old.

However, by the time Tubby arrived at St Mary’s to begin his curacy (appearing the same evening as his Ordination) Wilson had died suddenly and been replaced by his Senior Curate, Cyril Garbett.

The Clergy House at Portsea

Incidentally, a certain John Walker Woodhouse was ordained at the same ceremony as Tubby and posted to St James, Milton, a neighbouring parish. Once part of the same Portsea parish, Milton had existed as a Parish in its own right since 1844 with St James as its mother church. From October 1915 Woodhouse would serve as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces (including a brief spell with the RAF) before teaming up with Tubby in London. Woodhouse became the vicar of St John’s Waterloo in 1920 and as a Toc H man, gave the Movement the use of the vicarage in York Road which became Mark III. He was joint branch padre with Tubby. Later he preceded Pat Leonard as Bishop of Thetford. And another curate at Portsea, but before Tubby’s time, Edwin Percy Luard, the brother of Kate Luard, one of the Foundation Women Members of Toc H

Portsea needs a little explaining. It is actually a smallish area of the city of Portsmouth, which lays on Portsea Island, a promontory off the south coast of England. However, in our case, Portsea refers to the parish of Portsea with the church of St Mary’s as its mother church. The church actually stands in the locality of Kingston. The entire parish once covered the whole of the island but in Tubby’s day it had been broken into smaller parishes. At that time Portsea parish covered the localities of Buckland, Fratton, and Landport as well as Kingston and was subdivided into six districts (each with a mission church and hall).

St Mary’s parish church, opened in 1889 was the third church on that site and in Tubby’s time the Mission churches were St Barnabas, St Faith’s, St Mary’s Mission, St Boniface, and St Wilfrid’s. There was also a Mission Hall of St Nicholas.

Immediately around the church in the remains of what were once vast glebe lands were the clergy house, the Parish Institute and a small club room for the young men and lads of the district.

The church had benefitted with a great run of vicars since Edgar Jacob was appointed in 1878. It was he who modernised the parish and had the church rebuilt. He was succeeded by Cosmo Lang – the only time he had charge of a parish – later Archbishop of Canterbury. Lang was followed by Bernard Wilson in 1901 and then in 1909 by Garbett.

So Tubby set up home in the Clergy House. He was on 7/6 a week plus board and lodgings which got him a study-bedroom and use of the washbasin area downstairs. Later he could access the junior bathroom and had he been around for longer might have been allowed into the senior bathroom. One wing was occupied by kitchens and the rooms of the women who cooked, cleaned and dusted.

There was a rigid schedule. After Matins and breakfast the morning was spent reading and writing followed by a formal lunch. Then from 1.30pm to 2.30pm the curates had time for some R&R. Curates’ rounds were from no later than 2.30pm until at least 5.45pm. Evensong was followed by tea at the vicarage, then more visiting from 7-10. After Compline they could please themselves.

Visiting was a critical part of their role. It had been instilled into Garbett by Lang and he now pressed its importance to his own Curates. It involved travelling not only in their own district but out to wherever in Portsmouth their Communicants resided. Rather than being assigned to one of the Mission churches, Tubby remained attached to the Mother church and his district contained some 700 families, mostly sea-faring. Tubby loved visiting because people fascinated him. This would be evident throughout his life but never more so than when he collared passers-by on Tower Hill and dragged them to the vicarage to join him for a meal. Detailed notes had to be kept of everyone they visited, another habit Tubby never lost.

Garbett and his Curates. Tubby is first on the left in the back row

He was surprisingly well-versed in the ways of mariners. Before going to Oxford, he and his school-friend Cecil Rushton had spent holidays away travelling on tramp steamers and other merchant vessels. This love of the sea would of course be another constant in his life whether on cruise ships as he toured the world, in the Orkneys or as a Chaplain on oil-tankers. Portsea was so connected with both the Royal and mercantile navies that it was very important he understood. In November 1914, during the war, a cruiser was sunk and Tubby visited several of the bereaved families in the Parish.

He was also put in charge of the Vicarage accounts by Garbett. He knew little about finance and they were showing a £2000 deficit when he took on the books. Four years later Tubby’s nightly diligence had turned that deficit into a £500 surplus.

Tubby the Priest & Theologian

Besides preaching, the bread and butter work of the Parish was of course births, marriages and funerals. Tubby had only been at Portsea four days when on the 22nd December 1910 he buried his first parishioner. Robert Reason was a 65 year old who had been admitted to the asylum on the 26th November and died there on the 20th December. Later that same day Tubby also performed funeral rites on Emily Roe, a very respectable 87 year old lady.

A week later, on the 29thDecember, Tubby was let loose on his first babies, baptising six that day but he would have to wait until he had been fully priested before being allowed to marry anyone.

Tubby and his friend Woodhouse were both ordained as priests on St Thomas’ Day (21st December) 1911 by Edward Talbot (Bishop of Winchester) in Holy Trinity Church, Guildford.

Tubby’s first wedding took place on the 8th January 1912 and was between John Tann, a ship’s cook from HMS Hermione, and Olive Chapman, and his next followed five days later when he joined three couples in Holy Matrimony.

Along with these regular responsibilities and frequent preaching, Tubby did much other specifically religious work. This included writing a paper that he called The Church of the Fourth Dimension which was originally read to the Portsmouth and Gosport Clerical Society and – in March 1913 – published in The Commonwealth. In it, Tubby sets out his view of what the church of the future ought to be. After discussing the various options he appears to set his stall up for the High Church which he describes as a movement of the young for the young. He suggests that in the ‘church as it stands is an atrocious crime of being a young man, punishable by disenfranchisement”

In 1914 he was made a Vice-President of the Alliance of Honour (Garbett was President). The alliance started in 1903 and stood for inter-denominational and non-political work in the interests of purity and chivalry amongst men. Amongst other things it pushed for chastity before marriage and total faithfulness afterwards. A drive to begin a local branch began in late 1913 by the time of a town hall meeting in February 1914, some 300 members from all the town’s churches and chapels assembled. The first meeting was held a few days later in the Duchess of Albany’s home. Garbett spoke at length about the how men had been silent too long about the sin of impurity and could no longer let it happen unchallenged. He gave an example about a girl who had been tattooed when drunk and how the tattooist should never have done such a thing to a drunk girl.

In the 23rd October 1914 edition of the Church Times there is a piece by Tubby where he reflects on the impact the war is starting to have on his parishioners, notably those naval families. He asks if religion is helping these people and talks of the pillar box outside St Mary’s that is used for people to post the names of family members on active service. The Mission churches all have their own boxes too and the names on the scraps of paper are collated into a ledger and are then recited during special services. The ledger then rests on the altar during the celebrations. Tubby would of course reuse this method during the war gathering the names of the Communicants at No. 16 General Hospital and most famously at Talbot House, eventually adding them to ledgers that would form the basis for post-war Toc H. 


Although the bulk of his work was with the Parish church, when the Rev. Ellis Edge-Partington joined the army in April 1915 and was posted to York, Tubby briefly took over the Mission Church of St Faith’s but it was only briefly as he himself would soon depart.

A 1914 reunion of old Portsea clergy. Tubby is second left in the middle row wearing the light jacket

Tubby the Social Worker

Lads and Boys

Tubby was put in charge of Boys Club on arrival as he was expected to be ‘good at that kind of thing’. On his first night in charge, due to start at 7pm, Tubby went across to the club house but discovered that there were few boys there. He was told that more were expected by 7.30 so he altered the start time and returned to the Clergy House. Garbett was highly aggrieved and tore a strip off Tubby, so much so that he considered resigning. Thankfully he didn’t for his life may have gone a completely different way had he done so. After that shaky start Tubby’s work with the Boys Clubs was exemplary

 “Portsea is rich in the mineral Boy. Not only is the seam and extensive one, but the quality is no less remarkable”

Tubby Clayton

Tubby contributed Chapter Five (Lads and Young Men) in the 1915 publicationThe Work of a Great Parish – a collection of essays by some of the curates edited by Garbett. The chapter clearly shows Tubby’s belief in the importance of engaging children and young men in positive activities, again a lifelong passion. A great many of his boys were connected with the sea which helps us understand why he was so pleased to get the hostel for Seafaring Boys up and running in Southampton in the early days of Toc H (and briefly, a similar one in New York).

His work with the Portsea Boys happened under the existing structure of Companies. Each company was attached to either the Parish church or one of the Mission churches and known either by that name or by an adopted colour. The system was inaugurated in 1892, at a time when the clergy team was exceptionally strong in sportsmen. Before this there were a couple of simple gyms, one of which was used on Sundays by the members of what was to be St. Boniface Mission. Once the St. Boniface Mission Hall was built in Clive Road a larger gym was established there and under the Rev. R. W. Wilberforce became a club attached to a Bible class. Subsequently, Wilberforce was transferred to St. Mary’s Mission, and many of the members migrated with him to form the nucleus of Red Company. His place at St. Boniface was taken by the Rev. E. J. Nelson. They took (from Conan Doyle’s book) the name of the White Company, the subsequent companies being named in a similar fashion.

The White Company specialised in sporting activities, cricket and football in particular and in the early days was one of the largest. It was soon joined by the Red Company at St. Mary’s Mission, and the Blue Company at St. Barnabas. A magazine for the three companies was published for several years under the title of the Tricolour.

The Companies all had an attached Bible class which led on to compulsory confirmation classes (Though the actual confirmation was at the boys’ choice)

Just over a year before Tubby’s arrival St Mary’s Company or Company Brown opened its Club House and were led by the Rev. C. L. Cooper-Hunt. Tubby took over as manager as he joined the clergy team shortly after his predecessor left in Dec 1910 to become a Chaplain in the Forces.

Tubby will have worked with many hundreds of boys during his time in charge but it is worth mentioning one George Potter, because he retained a close connection with Tubby.

George was born December 1892, he was a member of St Mary’s Company under Tubby. George married in St Mary’s in 1916 by the Rev Oswald Hunt. George joined the Navy October 1917 aged 24 as a carpenter. A career navy man he stayed in touch with Tubby and Toc H often writing in from wherever he was in the world. He became a Warrant Officer Shipwright wand was commissioned as a Lieutenant Shipwright eventually making Lt. Cmdr. Placed on the retired list in 1942 he was reappointed for war service finally retiring in 1947 to Portsmouth where he was a District Chairman of Toc H. George died in November 1989

There were numerous activities in the club but it was important that the social events didn’t surpass the spiritual ones. Tubby organised debates and also camps in the New Forest. Always busy as he was, Tubby even found time to nip across from one Boys’ Camp to perform a service for the nearby Boy Scouts!

On the outbreak of war in the autumn of 1914 numbers dropped because so many of the lads were in the one of the navies and were now called to sea. Nevertheless it was at this time they finally committed to producing a long-discussed club magazine, The Nutshell. Tubby edited it and provided much of the material within.

By April 1915 it was reported that “except for Dockyard members, who strain at the leash but cannot go, the club is honourably depleted”

After Tubby left Portsea to join the war, The Nutshell carried on and Tubby continued to supply material from abroad. He also visited the club whilst home on leave on the evening of the 6th November 1915. Many old boys came down from as far afield as London to see him.

Guardian of the Poor

In 1914 Tubby made perhaps his biggest move so far into the field of Social Work when he decided to stand as an independent candidate in the Kingston Ward at the Board of Guardian elections. He was proposed by Garbett and seconded by William Miles (This would be the Rev. William Miles, pastor at the Buckland Congregational Church and President of the Free Church Council). A preliminary meeting of his supporters was held on the Friday 20th March at the Parish Institute followed by an open air meeting on the 23rd. Garbett chaired the first meeting explaining that he had made an exception to his normal impartial stand on the election of Guardians because he felt Tubby was a good candidate for those who needed a broad and independent man. He noted that the nomination papers were remarkable not only for bearing the signatures of church and chapel leaders but also those of prominent men and women from all three political parties. When Tubby spoke he was warmly received and he opened by saying that he didn’t feel his candidacy was in anyway inconsistent with his calling. There were none in the field of social work with their finger more on the pulse of poverty than the parish clergy. He posited himself firmly as the poor man’s candidate.

A further series of open air meetings began outside the Dockyard Main Gate on the 26th March. The advert promised No Party Politics and No Paid Agents. It stated that fifty volunteer workers had been enrolled in three days and a committee room established at Kingston Vicarage.

On Monday 30th March a further meeting was held at St. Wilfred’s Mission, Buckland. This time Garbett laid out Tubby’s suitability for the role citing both his work in Portsea and also his time in Bermondsey. Tubby spoke about the terrible conditions of the ‘imbecile blocks’ but, perhaps most interestingly, spoke about the need for more women Guardians. He told the audience that 234 of the 638 Boards of Guardians in the Kingdom had no female members.

The elections took place on Wednesday the 8th April and Tubby was successful being one of three new members elected to the Board. In fact Tubby topped the voting with 4036 votes. The next closest Guardian had only 3252. Tubby was welcomed at their annual meeting on the 16th April. He was appointed to the Children’s Home Committee with seven other Guardians (including, and forgive my puerile humour, a Mr Blackadar). Meetings were normally held at the workhouse in Milton. As a show of gratitude for his election Tubby made a small donation to the Radium Fund (There was national campaign to raise money to pay for Radium which converted to Radon gas was used as a cancer treatment).

Before long Tubby had made clear his intention to improve the conditions of the ‘feeble-minded’ under the care of the Guardians. At the May meeting he moved

“that a small committee be appointed to consider and report upon the desirability of re-entering into the negotiations now proceeding among the other Unions in Hampshire, for the purpose of making application to the Local Government Board to issue an order under Section 8 of the Poor Law Act, 1879, establishing a Joint Poor Law Committee for providing proper accommodation for the feeble-minded and sane epileptics.”

Tubby was suggesting that bungalow type accommodation on a farm site was the ideal type. His opponents, including the Portsmouth Evening News itself, felt that were sufficient ‘poor-souls’ in Portsmouth to justify putting them altogether in a workhouse. In fact Tubby had to go into battle with the Portsmouth Evening News about this and at the end of May they published a lengthy letter from him answering some damning remarks they had made in a previous edition.

In June the subject of hours worked by officers in the employ of the Board of Guardians was raised. Tubby proposed the resolution;

“That this Board, accepting the principle of the weekly day of rest, desires the three Committees to consider its application to the staff of the several Institutions.”

Tubby claimed his motivation was not simply to protect the Sabbath but cited the case of one doctor who had worked an 84 hour week. An amendment was made to ask each department to prepare a report of hours their staff worked and the amendment passed and Tubby’s original resolution was overturned.

In March 1915 there was a debate on the board about the recruitment of a female doctor for the workhouse infirmary. During the course of the debate Tubby characterised ‘the opposition of women patients to a woman doctor as ignorant prejudice thoroughly behind the times.’ He thought women doctors were less likely to treat patients as ‘cases’. His views may well as helped as the motion to recruit a woman doctor was passed by 11 votes to 2.

In May Tubby was extremely supportive of the Victoria Nursing Association remarking about the enormous number of patients they had taken off the Board’s hands and prevented from coming to the workhouse.  An amendment to increase the Board’s contribution from £50 to £60 was passed.

Tubby’s tenure was to be brought short by the war and in May 1915 he left Portsea for France. As he never returned fully his time on the Board was over. Writing to his mother from No. 16 General Hospital, Tubby did mention that he was hoping that the Guardians were going to send him a harmonium.

At a 1918 meeting of the Board, Tubby’s receipt of the Military Cross was brought up and it was agreed that a letter of congratulation be sent to their former colleague. Then in 1925 his name was applied at the head of a list of those who served Portsmouth Workhouse (Presumably erected at the Workhouse which was still active until 1930).

Personal Service Association

In May 1914 Tubby addressed a meeting of the Portsmouth Personal Service Association in the Banqueting Room of the Town Hall about social service co-operation. The Portsmouth branch of the Association started in 1910 and by 1914 Tubby was very involved. It aimed to work to bring together all those who wished to provide personal service and to connect to the committees that provided relief. The sort of personal service offered included visiting the sick and infirm, taking families and children out into the world and so forth. The Association could help match volunteers to needs. The parallels to the Social Service Bureau Toc H inherited from the Cavendish Society and the early way the Jobmaster was tasked to work cannot be ignored. At the annual meeting Tubby said that

“the work of voluntary workers reached its culmination when it applied to child life. Voluntary work had a lighter touch about it than when the work was not voluntary.”

He also warned that if the Mental Deficiency Act was to be successful

“a great deal of boot leather must be worn out in Portsmouth enquiring how many children were kept away from school because they were incapable of attending”.

He was cheered when he said that though the Acts did not go far enough they should be applied as far as they did go in connection with employment and children.

In April 1915 Tubby addressed a Men’s Conference in the Institute on the theme of The Mental Deficiency Act. This was clearly a passion of Tubby’s and one wonders where he might have gone with it if the war hadn’t intervened.

Tubby the Historian

On Monday 3rd April 1911 Tubby delivered a lecture on Westminster Abbey to the Portsea branch of the Church Defence and Church Instruction Committee in the Parish Institute, Fratton Road. Illustrated with glass lantern slides specially taken for him by the verger of the Abbey and Tubby shared the benefit of the knowledge he gleaned during his time as a research assistant under Dr Robinson. Tubby often gave these historical lectures to various groups in Portsea and his other topics included The Evolution of Christian Architecture, and Cathedrals and Churches in Wales.

The Parish Institute

In the summer of 1912 his paper about The Inlaid Tiles of Westminster Abbey which he wrote whilst working for Robinson, was published in pamphlet form by the Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and that same year he was awarded his MA in Theology.

In the November Tubby learned that during the demolition of the old St Mary’s church in 1843, workmen unearthed a stone coffin close to the altar. It was rumoured to be the resting place of a Crusader. Its fate after the new church was built was unclear but there was a rumour that it was reburied in the garden. On the strength of that rumour Tubby grabbed a spade and sought it out eventually finding it under a rockery. Broken and incomplete, he was nevertheless able to identify it as 13th century with a floriated cross with the shaft in relief. Though lacking any inscription or other identifying engraving, Tubby believed it to be the coffin of Sir Richard de Portesey who died about 1280. It was reinterred in the new church.

In March 1914 Tubby was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries because of his archaeological work at Westminster Abbey and that same year contributed a chapter on the history of St Mary’s parish in Garbett’s The Work of a Great Parish.


Around the same time he discovered two volumes of Parish registers in the Vestry that dealt with the churchwarden’s accounts and vestry minutes from 1632-1801. From this Tubby managed to piece together some notes about church life around the time of the Civil War. These were published in the Portsmouth Evening News.

Other aspects of Tubby’s Portsea life

Of Tubby’s other life and work whilst at Portsea, perhaps nothing is quite so unusual as this. Though I haven’t seen it personally, I am told the Parish history records that on one occasion the church clock failed so Tubby stood outside and shouted the time through a loud-hailer to the dockyard workers as they cycled past.

Like many of the Curates, Tubby was a regular contributor to the Portsea Parish Church Magazine, often tackling the more historical subjects. For example in September 1914, with war on everyone’s mind, Tubby wrote a short piece about the history of Portsea in wartime. However, he also regularly produced poems for the magazine. We reproduce some of them here.

Reproduction of these poems courtesy 20 Streets Project, The Portsea Parish

September 1914

May 1915

Historical Poem

Though he claimed little sporting prowess, we know he wielded the occasional cricket bat and tennis racquet. In October 1913 at the second AGM of the Bohemians Lawn Tennis Club held at the Royal Hotel in Southsea, Tubby was elected President.

In July of 1914 he took part in the New Forest Lawn Tennis Association second annual tournament. As well some of his fellow clergy, Tubby’s siblings Isobel and Hugh were also competing – the family home was of course quite nearby. Tubby competed in the Men’s Singles (Club Championship) and comfortably got through the first round in straight sets but was beaten in the second round. He also competed in the Gent’s Doubles Handicap with fellow curate Alfred Llewellyn Jones (More of whom later) but they were knocked out 7-5, 6-2 in the first round.

As mentioned earlier, in the autumn of 1914 Tubby was the editor of the newly launched The Nutshell, for the St Mary’s Company. It was described as

“an Expeditionary Q.F.* Magazine for despatch to members of St Mary’s Company and White Cross League on Active Service”

The magazine contained lots of humour as well as information about the activities of various institutions in St Mary’s parish. It was intended to be published quarterly for the duration of the war. The second edition in December was described by the local newspaper as being “full of brightness and humour.” It contained many letters from those once of the company now serving overseas and there were, said the reviewer, specimens of the editor’s wit on most pages. Tubby’s time as editor would be brief as soon he was one of those people on active service.

*Quick Firing?

Tubby goes to War

In the October 1914 Parish Church Magazine, Garbett wrote:

“I have told both the Chaplain-General and the local military chaplains that we should be most glad to help in any of the camps in the immediate neighbourhood, both in taking services and in visiting; and I have also told the Chaplain-General that if in an emergency he requires anyone to go, as a Chaplain, at an hour’s notice, to the front, we should be glad to send a man”

In the end he sent nine of his current Clergy as chaplains and another to the YMCA!

The Postings

In April 1915 the Rev. Ellis Edge-Partington, son of the well-known anthropologist James Edge-Partington, was the first to join the army. Enlisting as a Chaplain he was posted initially to York only going to France at the end of July.

Tubby was interviewed at the War Office by the Chaplain General Chaplain General, the Rev. John Taylor-Smith, on the 20th May. He was signed on as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class and sent immediately to France, crossing on the 26th May along with the Rev. Alfred Llewellyn Jones aka Jonah, his fellow Portsea Curate, whose interview had taken place the day before Tubby’s. Therefore Tubby and Jones were the first of Garbett’s curates to be posted to the front.

After a couple of days being together in France, Tubby and Jones were split up. Tubby went to No. 16 General Hospital and Jones went ‘up country’. Tubby was expecting to be posted to the Guards Division but was later diverted for a ‘special project’ with Neville Talbot. Tubby says that Jones got the posting to the 3rd Guards Brigade of the Guards Division in his place.

In the summer of 1916 Jones was posted close enough to Poperinghe to visit Talbot House and writing to the Parish Magazine says that the devotional part of the weekly Chaplains’ meeting is held in the chapel there.

Rev. Alfred Llewellyn Jones aka Jonah

Letters Home

In the July 1915 edition of St Mary’s Parish Magazine, a letter from Tubby was published. He spoke in some uncensored detail about his travel to France and subsequent arrival at No. 16 General Hospital. He spoke of the Services organised and the mix of men he was working with.

Also in July another soldier’s letter to the Buckland Congregational magazine stated “I often think of Buckland. The Rev. P.B. Clayton who used to be Curate at Kingston, is our Chaplain. Am quite well and will write letter shortly.”

In the August, September, and October 1916 magazines Tubby writes a lengthy (and censored) account of a visit to Orkneys with other Army Chaplains at the invitation of the Navy. He met several Portsea boys during his visit to the naval establishment. And on his return journey whilst stopping over at Rosyth, he has a mini reunion with several more Portsea Boys including George Potter.

Whilst Tubby wrote occasionally to the Parish Magazine, though not nearly as prolifically as Edge-Partington or Jones; Tubby preferred to write to his boys aka the Squirrels aka the Nutshellites via The Nutshell.

In a letter dated 30 November 1915 Tubby says that he is now a ‘substantial householder in a Belgian town’ and goes on to describe the house he has been given and the work that is going on to get it ready. The house is not named in the letter.

In the summer of 1917 he wrote:

“Long absence is a dire test of character, and the spirit of warfare is mainly a belittling and degrading slavery of the soul, from which a mere sentiment cannot liberate us. And since (As Mr Paterson says), the war is ultimately one of character, not munitions, everything that strengthens character is vital. And what is more potent for good in our lives than the steadying sanction of deep sweet memories behind? Forget-me-nots that have been prayed over have a power, besides a perfume. I know I am not the only old Portsea boy whose mind is turned on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to the thought of a little group of quiet figures in the old Club-room.”

Later in 1917 a Dr A. Thomas wrote in The Nutshell that he “had met with Mr Clayton and had tea with him. He still has debates – on Friday the subject was ‘This House is convinced the war will finish this year’ but I’m sorry to say the House was not convinced at all.”

In the September 1917 edition, Tubby’s letter reflects on the Portsea lads in the war. The first loss he says was Harry Adams of HMS Formidable because ‘naturally the Sea came first with us’. He writes of how Fred Burrow and Bertie Hoptrough had spent both Christmas and Easter with him and mentions several other Company boys he has seen; several of them now dead. He closes by saying that ‘this is a sad letter but a proud one.’

Later that year he writes again and talks about Little Talbot House, the sister house opened in Ypres.

Visits Home

Tubby came home on leave in November 1915 and visited the St Mary’s Company Clubhouse on Saturday evening (6th May), spent Sunday in the Parish then left for home Monday afternoon before returning to the front.


Tubby was home again in February 1916 and preached at St Mary’s on the 20th and then led a Men’s Conference talk with the topic of ‘The Salient’. He had carried home with him an old and beautiful carving of the Last Supper which he had found in a hop store in Poperinge and purchased for 75 Francs. Originally in the chapel of Talbot House, Tubby feared for its safety so brought it home stored it in the War Chapel of St Mary’s until after the war when it moved to Mark I and then back to Talbot House when the property was acquired for the Toc H Movement.

The parishioners of Portsea supported Tubby’s work. The children of the Sunday Schools created tiny crucifixes ‘moulded with great simplicity and costing only a few pence each’. These were sent to Tubby and handed out to communicants until the Ministry of Munitions forbid the use of metal in such ornaments.

Tubby was also sent a Pyx at Talbot House by the ‘poorest people of Portsea’.

Meanwhile, back in Portsea as the number of curates dropped the spare space in the clergy house was commandeered as billets for the officers of the Barrage Balloon unit, an arrangement which apparently worked well, especially when the RAF officers offered to share their service rations, which were more generous than the civilian ones.

The Portsea Curates

The nine Curates serving as Chaplains – including Tubby – jointly wrote a letter to Cyril Garbett during the war which moved him deeply. The idea was Bald’s but Tubby drafted the letter.

Ellis Foster Edge-Partington was a member of the 1908 British Olympic Hockey team. During WWI he was a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces and served with the Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded the Military Cross in June 1917 and had a Bar added for Gallantry and Devotion to the wounded during the Battle for Haspres on the 13th October 1918. Surviving the war he died in 1957.

Ellis Foster Edge-Partington in later life

Alfred Llewellyn Jones was awarded the Military Cross during the Battle of the Somme (Gazetted in November 1916) for tending to the wounded under heavy fire….on several occasions doing stretcher bearing work. Jones survived the war and was Vicar of St James, Barrow in Furness then Rector of Lambeth from 1927. He died in 1943.

Tubby received the Military Cross in the New Year 1918 Honours list, the third of the Portsea Curates to be awarded it.

Technically Tubby remained a Curate at Portsea until 1919 but never returned in that role because of his work with the Ordination Schools, his eventual posting to All Hallows, oh, and a little thing called Toc H.

He did continue to stay in touch and in the summer of 1919 wrote about his new work at the Service Candidates School in Knutsford.

“This great school is like no other place I have known. We have here 350 ex-officers and men living the simplest, cheeriest and most brotherly life in Europe; working, playing, planning and praying with a spirit of unity that means new strength to the Church of the future.”


Then again of his plans for Toc H in the spring 1920 edition of The Nutshell.

“to establish right in the heart of London a big central club-house, like a gigantic Company Brown, where the lonely fellow, to whom London is a mere soulless wilderness, can come and find welcome and fellowship among others of his own age and outlook.”

And he did return in September 1919 to attend a reunion of St Mary’s Company and he promised to attend a St Mary’s Company Reunion in New Year’s Day 1924.

On the 8th February 1920 Tubby addressed the Portsmouth Brotherhood with the subject of What Toc H Stands For, and the following evening spoke at the Parish Institute in connection with the Church’s recruiting campaign.

The Vice President of St Mary’s Company during Tubby’s days there was George Duncan Knight. When Knight died in 1938 Tubby returned to Portsea for the unveiling of a memorial plaque in the Club Room. At the ceremony he revealed that Knight anonymously donated his considerable savings to Toc H in its earliest days thus helping get it started.

And so we see that Tubby never lost his connection with Portsea. George Potter, one of his Company Brown boys, was even a guest on Tubby’s appearance on This Is Your Life in 1958. We’ve already reflected on how he carried forward passions fuelled in Portsea to Toc H; the Seafaring Boys Hostel just one example. The man was taken out of Portsea but Portsea was never taken out of the man!

As ever, this blog couldn’t have been written without help from others and access to a large number of sources. In particular I want to thank Keith Roberts of the 20 Street Project (See below). The following titles were also particularly helpful

A Touch of Paradise in Hell – Jan Louagie (Helion)

A Fool for Thy Feast – Linda Parker (Helion)

Clayton of Toc H – Tresham Lever (John Murray)

Tubby Clayton – A Personal Saga – Melville Harcourt (Hodder and Stoughton)

Tales of Talbot House

Letters from Flanders

The Journal

And Find My Past for access to the British Newspaper Archive

The 20 Streets Project (through which I had access to the wartime Parish News Magazine) is a lovely little project made possible through the same funding stream I used to take a group of adults with learning disabilities to Flanders in 2014. It’s a delightful look at the streets between St Mary’s Road and New Road in Portsea.

A project originally funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund supported by Portsea Parish, Fratton Big Local, Portsmouth University History Dept. and Portsmouth Archives. Now continuing as a personal venture by Keith Roberts

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