The First Committee Members

By Steve Smith

When researching and writing for my blog, I am never ceased to be amazed by how Tubby was able to attract the ‘great and the good’ to the Toc H cause, particularly in the earliest days. From time to time this blog looks at the people who were involved in Toc H’s rebirth after the Great War and today focuses on those who ‘agreed’ or were cajoled into forming the earliest overseeing body of Toc H, the Executive Committee – a somewhat amorphous group.

First, let us look a little at the events leading up to the formation. You will probably recall that immediately after his war duties finished, Tubby was engaged in the Ordination or Test School at Knutsford. In parallel to that he developed his dream – originating as early as 1917 – of recreating Talbot House in London. To this end he had sent out a card at Christmas 1918 to all of those wartime visitors to Talbot House – the Talbotousians or Foundation Members – that they had addresses for. The mailing asked that parties who shared Tubby’s dream should get in touch.

This address list was subsequently developed thanks largely to the Reverend Richard Ridge compiling a register of Talbotousians from the surviving Communicant’s Roll. And whilst Tubby was at Knutsford, Lieutenant Edwin George White stood in as secretary to the fledgling group and tried to gather men on the register as members. Following this came the publication – in September 1919 – of Tales of Talbot House, primarily to raise funds and promote the dream.

 As the dream grew more real, an initial meeting of interested parties was called. Not, as I have long believed on the 15th November 1919 but on Saturday 18th October. We know this because at the start of the more widely recorded November meeting, the minutes for the 18th October were read. Unfortunately we learn nothing more of that meeting except that an Honorary Secretary has already been appointed (Probably Edwin White) and a reconnaissance subcommittee formed. It is likely these appointments were made at the earlier meeting. Furthermore since there was no talk of forming an association or adopting a constitution in November, it is also likely that this happened at the October 18th meeting, or even before then. Indeed, earlier that week, in its edition dated 16th October, the Sheffield Telegraph had reported that “there is reputed to be an Association of Old Talbotians [Sic]”. Then on 2nd November 1919 Tubby preached a sermon in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace (alongside Edgar Sheppard, father of Stuart, see below) for the King and Queen. The Times reported that Tubby was Chaplain of the Talbot House Association. This early name would be changed to Toc H at a meeting in December to avoid confusion with the Talbot House Settlement that existed in South London.

If only those missing minutes would show up; nevertheless by early November 1919 there appears to be a formal Association and it would remain in this structure until December 1922 when it was incorporated by Royal Charter. At this point the Executive Committee was replaced by a somewhat complex structure of a Trustees, a Central Executive, and Central Council. That can be explored at another time as today we will focus on those who were called to the Executive Committee in the first few weeks of Toc H’s new life.

We don’t know who attended the 18th October meeting but we can assume it was a smaller group and that one of things discussed was probably who to invite to the next, crucial meeting in November. The invitation was sent from Knutsford on 8th November and took the form of a military order. A Situation Report was also included. The expected intendees are shown below. Of these, we hear nothing further of Ardagh, Mynors Farmer, Disney Roebuck, or Wiskeard so either they didn’t make it or they managed to avoid the secretary’s minute pen.

The expected attendees as per the mailing sent out beforehand

Interestingly, Alison Macfie’s copy of the invitation includes a hand-written message from Tubby stating that his is glad that ‘both’ of you can attend. Both is underlined. One can only ponder that her cousin Dorothea was perhaps expected, or possibly Kate Luard, two of the other women Foundation Members who had some later involvement in Toc H. There is no evidence to support either of these theories though.

And so the meeting on Saturday 15th November was not so much the moment of rebirth but more when the new association spread its wings. This enlarged body convened at the Central Church Fund Office, 40 Great Smith Street, Westminster (following lunch at the RAC Club in Pall Mall). Its next meeting a few days later was in the offices of Ellis, Peirs & Co. (Solicitors) at 17 Albermarle Street in Mayfair where they continued to be held for more than a year afterwards. The firm’s senior solicitor was Montague Ellis who would play an important role in the early days of Toc H, albeit one in the background.

The minutes state that General May was in the chair but do not list those present. We know that apart from Reggie May, Tubby and John Nicholson were also present. Others can be determined from the minutes and actions, and from the election of the provisional Committee, though there is nothing to say that some poor souls were voted on without being present on the day. Baron tells us later that John Macmillan, then vicar of Kew, and Dick Sheppard were also present. In a December 1926 obituary of Guy Sydenham Hoare, the author (presumably Barclay Baron) states that Siddie was at the inaugural meeting in 1919 though he says it took place at Church House (which is just up the street from 40 Great Smith Street). Unless of course the elusive earlier meeting was at Church House? Regardless, it seems that Siddie was there at some point and we shall include him.

The key business at the November meeting that concerns us was when Canon Frank Partridge proposed that a provisional Executive Committee be appointed. Major L. Eggar then proposed that:

  • That the Committee consist of the Members with the power to add to their number
    • That General R.S. May be asked to act as the Chairman of the Committee
    • That the original Members be the following (See below)

These proposals were seconded and resolved accordingly. The first 15 members of the Executive Committee were:

From 15th November 1919
Reginald May (Chairman)
Alison Macfie                                                       
Arthur Bates                                                         
Montague Ellis                                                    
John Hollis                                                           
Hugh Johnston                                                   
Frank Partridge                                                    
Alexander Paterson                                            
Alec Smithers                                                      
Geoffrey Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes          
William Pope                                                        
Reginald Croucher                                             
Frederick Gregory                                               
Neville Talbot                                                       
George Knapp-Fisher

Incidentally I have not been able to pin down the full identity of Major L. Eggar who made the proposal though my hot favourite is Major Logan Bicknell Edgar and a slightly cloth-eared secretary.

In the coming months and years Tubby’s habit of always bringing ‘strays’ to meetings and co-opting them led to this Committee growing out of all proportion. William J. Musters – Registrar from January 1920 – in some later notes he made about the early minutes, recorded that eventually the Committee had about 80 members. This may be an exaggeration but even the usually accurate Barclay Baron describes the Executive Committee as “an informal and telescopic one”.

A further meeting was held a few days later at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19th November, again at 17 Albemarle Street, W1.

Present were all the original committee except Talbot, Johnston, & Pope and the group were supplemented by Cecil Ellis and Kenneth Lyon. Presumable Tubby was also present again. Cecil was Montague Ellis’ son and also a solicitor. Although he was present at the meeting he doesn’t appear to join the Committee but John Nicholson who attended the previous meeting and escaped election, was co-opted this time.

At this meeting the name Toc H was chosen in favour of Talbot House. In fact the official name of the association was agreed as Toc H (late Talbot House, Poperinghe and Ypres).

Added to the Committee from 19th November 1919 according to William J. Musters although their election/co-option is not formally recorded in the minutes.
Kenneth Lyon   
John Nicholson

A further meeting was held at 6.30pm on Wednesday 26th November again at 17 Albemarle Street. Twelve of the Committee were present along with Tubby. Reggie May was in the chair.

The position of Honorary Treasurer was considered and a sub-committee was formed to deal with it. Sir Frederick Milner had been asked but had either refused or not responded so the name W.A. Dodd was added to the short-list. This was probably Lt. William Alexander Dodd Wessex of the RGA who served under the aforementioned Guy Sydenham Hoare near Ypres. Dodd was commissioned on 6th December 1915 and was a Foundation member, visiting Talbot House during the war.

A further meeting was held at Montague Ellis’ office on Wednesday 17th December where it was agreed to rent the flat at Red Lion Square, which effectively became an embryonic hostel.

Six days later, at the next meeting on Tuesday 23rd December Jack Peirs and Herbert Shiner are present for first time. They are co-opted to the committee along with Trevelyan Thomson and Stuart Sheppard. Arthur Pettifer was appointed as Major Domo at 36 Red Lion Square (A role he held from 1920-1925). No. 8 Queen’s Gate Place was also on the agenda; Shiner was appointed to deal with negotiations. This will soon become the first Talbot House Mark for a very short period of time.

Jack Peirs took the position of Honorary Treasurer soon afterwards.

From 23rd December 1919
Jack Peirs
Herbert Shiner
Stuart Sheppard
Trevelyan Thomson

And we will draw a line in the sand here. As mentioned above, the Committee would gather many more members over the next couple of years until being replaced by Council. We will just look at those who were elected to it during 1919.

So let us now look at these people in more detail (but no particular order). Probably the best known at the time was Neville Talbot, who along with Tubby had founded the original Talbot House in Poperinghe and for whose brother it was named.

Neville Talbot

Born on 21st August 1879 to Edward Stuart Talbot, then the warden of Keble College, Oxford, Neville immediately became part of a great church family. His father later became Vicar of Leeds, and Bishop of Rochester, Southwark and Winchester successively. Neville himself went to Haileybury, then Christ Church College before taking theological training at Cuddesdon and becoming a chaplain at Balliol College. Having fought in the South African wars as an officer in the Rifle Brigade, when the First World War arrived he signed on as a Military Chaplain. Neville’s war saw, amongst other things, the death of his brother Gilbert and the co-founding with Tubby Clayton of Talbot House. He also rose to the position of Assistant Chaplain-General. Married in 1918, his beloved Cecil died just three years later after which his sister Lavinia helped him bring up his children. He spent ten years in South Africa as Bishop of Pretoria before returning to England and spending his last years at St Mary’s, Nottingham. At a shade over 6’ 6” he was said to be the tallest Bishop in England. He retained a connection to Toc H whenever possible. Neville had a sudden heart attack on the 12th December 1942, the 27th anniversary of the opening of Talbot House. He died on the 3rd April 1943 near Brighton whilst convalescing.

Neville Talbot

Alison Macfie

I have written about Macfie’s life in an earlier blog so what follows is a much reduced biography. Suffice to say, as one of only eight recorded women Foundation Members she was a close friend of Tubby.

Macfie was born on Christmas Day of 1886 in New Ferry on the Wirral side of the Mersey into a wealthy sugar refining family. In 1916, Macfie and her ‘cousin’ Annie Dorothea Macfie were nursing with the French Red Cross at a hospital at La Panne on the Belgian coast near the border with France. In the spring of 1917, relief nurses were needed in Poperinghe and the cousins travelled to the annex of the Hospital Elizabeth that was built in the grounds of Chateau Couthove at Proven just outside the town. Whilst there Macfie recounts that on the 8th April 1917 “we were taken by ambulance into Poperinghe on Easter morning and there deposited outside the big iron doors of Talbot House……” She doesn’t expand on who “we” were although one assumes it was her cousin given that both signed Communicants’ Slips at Easter 1917.

After the war Macfie was working at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Welbeck Street. She maintained contact with Tubby and was, somewhat against her will, recruited to the first Executive Committee of Toc H. On one occasion she saved her hospital ration of sugar and took it to the team based at Red Lion Square. She was promptly nabbed by Arthur Pettifer to put up a new lampshade and thus the work of the League of Women Helpers probably began at that very moment.

At a meeting on 4th July 1922 in Mrs Edward Horne’s drawing room, Tubby expounded the virtues of Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of Canada that he had encountered on his recent trip there. The formation of a new association was agreed and, though she sank herself deep into the sofa, Macfie found herself on the committee once again. If you want to know more, I suggest you try and find the two books she wrote about the Women’s Movement as mentioned in my Ten Books Blog in May.

She remained part of Toc H until her death in 1963. Her ashes are at All Hallows, and Alison House in Cromford, Derbyshire is named for her. It was a Toc H conference centre for many years but is now a private hotel.

Alison Macfie

Frank Partridge

Frank Partridge was born on the last day of 1877, the son of a Canadian. He took Holy Orders at Cuddesdon and was a Curate at Hawarden. He married Elizabeth Barton in 1910.  He was Chaplain to the Bishop of Chichester until 1918, and from then became a Canon. Amongst his extra duties he was editor of the Chichester Diocesan Kalendar and Gazette from 1914 until 1921, Financial Secretary of the National Assembly of the Church of England 1921–34, and secretary of the Bishop of Chichester’s Diocesan Fund.

In January 1919 Partridge was appointed honorary secretary of the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England. This last body was probably what brought him close to Tubby who was then at Knutsford seeking funding. The Church had a great appeal going for the Service Candidates’ Ordination Fund, running from its Central Fund Office where Partridge worked. These offices being 40 Great Smith Street where the November meeting was held.

In 1937 Partridge was made Bishop of Portsmouth, a post he was to hold to his death in October 1941

Frank Partridge by Walter Stoneman 1938
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Alexander Paterson

Paterson was born in Cheshire in November 1884 and studied at Oxford in 1902 where he met Barclay Baron, amongst others. He also became involved with the work of Dr Stansfeld at Oxford Medical Mission, a connection he would retain for the rest of his life. He wrote a book – Across the Bridges – about working class life in the area.


During the war he served in the 22nd (County of London) Battalion (The Queen’s), visiting Talbot House in January 1917. Afterwards he was quick to get involved in Toc H and went on to become Chair of the Central Executive. His Four Rules of Life also formed the basis for the Four Points of the Compass.

Outside of Toc H his work and great passion was penal reform. In 1922, he was appointed Commissioner of Prisons and Director of Convict Prisons. He believed that prisons should focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Paterson had a major role in the development of Borstals and the prison system as a whole.

He retired as Commissioner in 1946 and was knighted the following year but died soon after in November 1947, a few weeks before the passing of the Criminal Justice Act that bore many of his ideas. Paterson Park, Bermondsey was named after him as was Mark XXII (Paterson House), originally opposite his battalion’s old drill hall in Bermondsey but later relocated to Denmark Hill.

Sir Alexander Henry Paterson by Bassano Ltd 11 January 1939
© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Manclark Hollis

From Leeds, John Hollis served with the 1st York and Lancs until he was seriously wounded near Loos in September 1915. He ended up losing his left arm, an incident which clearly had a massive effect on his life. A result of this was that in early 1919 Hollis became one of the leading lights in establishing Enham Village Centre. Enham Place was a private estate which together with houses and other buildings totalled some 1027 acres. As a result of a visit from John Hodge, Minster for Pensions, the Village Centres Council selected Enham Place as the site for the first Village Centre following the Great War ‘for the medical treatment and training of ex-servicemen suffering from the effects of amputations’. Hollis was Organising Secretary. There is a lovely story Tubby told about Hollis that I want to repeat here.

Hollis was pressing an Alderman for a donation towards Enham. The Alderman said, generously:

“Here’s fifty pounds.”

Hollis, inquiringly:

“You had two sons in the war, sir, had you not?”

The Alderman, piously: “Yes, indeed, and thank God they both came home.”

The Foundation Member, pluckily: “I see, sir, you value your sons at twenty-five pounds apiece.”

The Alderman: “Give me back that cheque.”

The result, £2,000 for disabled men.

After the war Hollis married Eleanor Tarras, a VAD nurse. And as a Foundation Member, he became involved with the formation of Toc H. As well as being on the Committee, Hollis would be Chief Guard on the first Guard of the Lamp (The body that decided which branches had earned a Lamp of Maintenance); he was also Marshal, organising the Lamp parties at the Birthday Festivals and was Honourable Secretary of the Toc H Golf Club.

He was working for an insurance company in Manchester and still very involved with Toc H when he died suddenly in 1941. Over his lifetime he had raised £70,000 for disabled servicemen

John Hollis

Montague Ellis

Although it was his son, Cecil (See below), who appeared on the invitation list of the November meeting, it appears that Montague not only attended but offered the offices of his business for future meetings as well as his own services as a committee member. I believe his firm Ellis, Peirs & Co. were already acting as Toc H’s solicitors at this time. Born in 1865, Ellis was older than the others on the Committee and as a solicitor, probably tried to tame Tubby’s wildest plans. With little success one expects.

Later it would be Ellis who, along with Sir Charles Kenderdine who drew up the constitution and bylaws that formed the basis of the Royal Charter. When Toc H restructured under the Charter, Ellis became a Trustee. He was also on the committee Tubby assembled in 1934 as an advisory body for his plans to Improve Tower Hill and Ellis, Peirs & Co. acted as solicitors.

Arthur Sydney Bates

Arthur Bates was born on the 18th June 1879 and later educated at Winchester. He was in the Territorials before the war joining the London Rifle Brigade in 1900. He commanded them from February 1915 until August 1916, having first been commander of D Company. He was awarded a D.S.O. during this period and was mention four times in Despatches. Wounded in 1916 he was sent home but after recovery he returned to France with 3/5 Lancashire Fusiliers and later in the war, after a period at home was sent to Dublin during the troubles.

Bates married Mary Da Costa Crosse on 26 April 1905. He died on 7th May 1958

Hugh Liddon Johnston

Hugh Johnston was born in Oxford in 1889, the son of Canon John Octavius Johnston (Later Principal of Cuddesdon), and educated at Magdalen College 1910-1914. He joined the London Regiment and attained the rank of Major. After the war he chose to join the priesthood and was ordained as a Deacon on the 7th October 1923 and as a Priest on the 5th Oct 1924; both ordinations taking place at St Paul’s. He joined Dick Sheppard’s church, St Martin-in-the-Fields as a curate and was Rector of Cranleigh from 1931 until 1962. He died in 1968

Hugh Johnston

Alec Smithers

Alec – and that was his true first name not a diminutive – was born in Camberwell on 29th August 1878.  He later trained as an architect. On 31st March 1913 he was admitted to the Honourable Artillery Company which was a charity as well as a military company.  The following year, in July, he married Irene Chaplin (1880-1967) and they moved to The Manse in Water Lane, Bishops Stortford where they remained throughout their life.

Originally in the ranks of the reserve battery of the HAC, Smithers was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery (154th Heavy Battery) in 1915 and entered the war as a Lieutenant in April 1916. He was later promoted to Major and almost certainly served with Herbert Shiner (See below) at this time. It was probably also when his visited Talbot House.

As well as being on the Committee Alec is renowned for two other things in Toc H. Firstly he designed the elaborate and ornate casket to house the Prince of Wales Lamp, from which all the Lamps of Maintenance are lit. The cage still stands in All Hallows on John Croke’s tomb. Secondly, after the destruction of all Hallows in WWII he was partly responsible for the redesign of the church. As a Fellow if the Royal Institute of British Architects, Smithers was highly respected. He worked in partnership with William Campbell-Jones from an office at Skinners Hall on Dowgate Hill, London. Campbell Jones, Sons & Smithers specialised in classical banks and insurance buildings and one of their early works was 152-154 Harley Street, built originally for the County Bank. Amongst his other renowned works were Bouverie House in Fleet Street, Lloyds Bank headquarters in Lombard Street, the King George V Extension to Moorfields Eye Hospital, and an organ for Holy Trinity Church in Bishops Stortford where he lived. He also had his own practice office at Morleys in Great Hallingbury. He died on 23rd September 1949 and his ashes are in the Columbarium at All Hallows

Lord Saye and Sele

Always known as Lord Saye and Sele – and often mistaken for two people because of it – Geoffrey Cecil Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was the 18th Baron in the title. Educated at Eton he was originally gazetted into the 108th Foot of the Oxfordshire Militia on 22 January 1879 and later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers with whom he served in South Africa. Although he retired in 1899 he kept close ties with the military and also entered parliament as a Liberal MP.

During the First World War he served as an Area Commandant in Flanders and arrived in Poperinghe in the spring of 1917. He became a regular visitor to Talbot House, often walking two miles there on a Sunday morning for the service. He was 68 at the time. He died 2 February 1937

Lord Saye and Sele
© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Godfrey Thomas Pope

William Pope was born in April 1880 and married Eileen Hickie in July 1904. After graduating as an engineer, he worked for the National Telephone Company in London from 1905-1908 and then worked as Chief Engineer at the United River Plate Telephone Company in Buenos Aires until the outbreak of war. He entered the war on 16th March 1916 and was a Captain (Later Acting Major) in the Royal Engineers. He first visited Talbot House in early 1917 shortly after being awarded the MC in the New Year’s Honours list.

He later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps to become their Chief Signals Officer and he continued after the war when in 1920, he became general manager at The Anglo-Portuguese Telephone Company, a position he held until his retirement in 1939. He lived near Lisbon and Tubby spent three weeks with them in Sintra in their house “tucked in the hills beneath the shadow of a Moorish castle”.

Pope died on the 15th May 1943 and is buried in the English Cemetery. Aside from his skills as an engineer he was a talented musician and for many years played the organ of the Church of São Jorge, in Lisbon

William Pope

Reginald Irvine Croucher

Born on the 12th June 1896 – somewhat younger than most of his fellow Committee members – Croucher was a Clerk at the Crown Agents for the Colonies before the war and a cadet in the RFC from the 17th August 1916. He became a wireless operator and at one point was attached to a Battery on the Somme but relocated to Flanders at some point as he is known to have visited Talbot House on 11th November 1917. He was transferred to the RAF when it was founded on 1st April 1918 and then in July was transferred to the wireless school. He didn’t appear to continue this trade for long after the war as by 1930 he was a Customs Officer.

As well as being on the Committee Croucher was a member of the first Provincial Executive and also the London Club Committee. He lived in Greenwich and later Godalming and married in 1923. He died in 1972.

Frederick Philip Gregory

Of all my early Committee members, Gregory has been the most elusive. Thanks to the list in Alison Macfie’s book we have his 1919 address and this concurs with the records of Talbot House who have him recorded as a visitor during the war with the same address. Both though only give his initials. After much research I have concluded that it is likely he is Frederick Phillip Gregory, though I still couldn’t turn up much biographical information on him. He originally served in the 2nd County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons) and was later a Corporal in the Military Mounted Police. Apart from the main Committee Gregory was also on the London Club Committee.

George Edwin Knapp-Fisher

Knapp-Fisher was born on the 18th April 1886 in Kensington and took Holy Orders in Weymouth. By the time of his marriage to Agatha Iremonger on the 26th August 1913 he was a Royal Navy Chaplain at HMS Chatham. By 1939 he was a vicar in Minehead and he died in 1946 in the Exmoor district

Kenneth Lyon

Lyon was born in Rainhill, St Helens on 7th February 1886. Kenneth went to Birkenhead School then Merton College, Oxford, after which went to work at the War Office. He married Lucy Geden in 1913.

During the war he first served in the ranks of the Royal Horse Artillery but was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery as a Second Lieutenant on 8th October 1916. On 3rd January 1917 Kenneth was promoted to Lieutenant whilst holding the post of Adjutant and visited Talbot House on the 25th January 1918. Later in the war he was promoted to Captain and became Private Secretary to Sir Nevil Macready, the Adjutant-General. After the war Lyon became Private Secretary to several consecutive War Ministers and was responsible for the work of the War Memorials Committee.

His first wife, Lucy, died in 1924 and on Thursday 4th April 1929 the marriage took place ‘very quietly’ between Kenneth Lyon CBE and Sybil Dorothy Bushell. From 1936 to 1946 he became Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the War Office.

Lyon died in Norfolk in 1956.

Kenneth Lyon

John Henry Nicholson

Nicholson was born in 1889 and got a double-first in Theology at Oxford. A Foundation Member, his story of how he came to Talbot House and joined in one of the famous debates, is related in Tales of Talbot House. He was universally known as ‘Nick’. He was a Knutsford with Tubby and they travelled down to London together on the eve of the November Committee meeting. He was also with Tubby when they went into an insurance office at 12.30pm on a Saturday to beg for someone to type up some memos for the meeting that afternoon. They came out with their pile of papers and also William Hurst, later to become Honorary Treasurer of Toc H. Although Nicholson didn’t go straight on to the Committee, he was later co-opted.


An academic, he taught at Bristol University and was a stalwart of Bristol branch. In 1923, thanks to the Kahn Travelling Fellowship, he was fortunate to travel extensively. This allowed him to meet up with Toc H folk as far afield as India, Ceylon and Canada. Later he was made professor at the University of Durham (Now Newcastle University) and from 1935 to 1954 was Principal at University College Hull and its first Vice Chancellor from 1954-1956. Nicholson never married, and despite being a notoriously heavy smoker, lived to the age of 82.

Hugh John Chevallier Peirs

Peirs, like his father Hugh Vaughn Peirs before him, was a solicitor at Ellis, Peirs and Co., with Montague and Cecil Ellis. This was probably his connection to Toc H although he may well have visited Talbot House during the war but we have no evidence to support this. Born Hugh John in 1886, he was known to all as Jack; Musters refers to him as Jock in his notes on the minutes but I think this may be a bit of a handwriting issue. Peirs went to Charterhouse then New College, Oxford. Starting as a solicitor before the war, Peirs was commissioned an officer in the 8th Battalion, of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and arrived in France in September 1915. He served for three years attaining (briefly) the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was twice wounded and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Coerced on to the Committee he was one of the small team despatched to visit Dame Guthrie-Reid regarding leasing the former Anglo-South American Committee properties in Kensington. He had become Honorary Treasurer by April 1920 and his name appears as such in lots of the early literature. Peirs remained the Honorary Treasurer of Toc H until April 1923 when, at the first Council meeting under the new charter, Peter Monie was officially appointed as Administrator and Arthur Bradley Kettlewell was installed as Honorary Treasurer. Both were previously of the Indian Civil Service. Peirs was warmly thanked for his services.

Interestingly his letters home from the western front have survived and a project was launched to publish them. It can be viewed here https://jackpeirs.org. Peirs died in 1943.

Herbert Shiner

Shiner was born on 4th July 1890 in Bethnal Green. By the time of the 1911 census, he was an acting Bombardier with the 35th Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery and was billeted at Fort Nelson near Fareham. He later transferred to the reserves and on 9th December 1912 joined the Metropolitan Police as a Constable. When war broke out he was mobilised as a Bombardier before being commissioned in 1915. That same year he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He left the Metropolitan Police in September 1917 and in 1919 accepted a permanent commission in the RGA. Now with the 154th Heavy Battery, he was promoted to acting Major and the following year received the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. He knew Tubby and Talbot House well.

He married Elizabeth Trimmer in 1921 but retained his links with Toc H being a major player in the Petworth area in Sussex. Shiner became a councillor for West Sussex County Council in 1928. In 1932 was chairman of the West Sussex Education Committee. A school was later named for him. He was also chair of Petworth Rural District Council for some years.

Elizabeth died in 1935. During the war Shiner was a member of the council’s War Emergency Committee and also served on the headquarter staff of the Home Guard. He became chairman of the West Sussex County Council in 1946, a position he retained until shortly before his death. He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex in 1949 and knighted the following year. He died on 1 August 1962 in the London Clinic.

Herbert Shiner

Stuart Morton Winter Sheppard

A cousin of Tubby, both men descended from the well-known clothiers, the Sheppard family of Frome, Somerset. He was born in Dawlish in in 1895 to Henry (Harry) and Rita Sheppard. Harry, a scholar of Hebrew, would himself become a Toc H man and would be responsible for building it up in Cambridge.

Sheppard served as an officer in the 12th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Middle East. After the war he settled in Chelsea and became a solicitor. Tubby contacted him early on and co-opted him to the Committee – like Croucher, Sheppard was one of the younger members. Tubby also persuaded him to edit The Christmas Spirit, the Toc H Annual of Christmas 1920. This happened from the offices of the Cavendish Association at 8a New Cavendish Street. (The Association would later merge with Toc H bringing Barclay Baron into the organisation). Sheppard was also on the London Club Committee in 1922. However it was in the Toc H sports’ associations that Sheppard found his calling. He started a Toc H cricket team which led to finding and renting in 1921 the Toc H sports ground at Folly Farm near Hadley Woods, Barnet. Sheppard was also secretary of the Toc H football team in 1927/8 when they played in Senior Division 1 of the Southern Amateur League

In December 1922 he married Barbara Shepherd, daughter of Punch illustrator, J.A. Shepherd at Charlwood church in Surrey. Tubby, newly inducted as vicar of All Hallows, carried out the service. The Sheppards would have two children, Mary and David. David went on to become a well-known cricketer and later Bishop of Liverpool. Sheppard died on 19th November 1937 aged only 42. His ashes are in the undercroft of All Hallows church.

Stuart Sheppard

Reginald Seaburne May

In many ways May was one of the most important people in the story of Toc H, both in Poperinghe and again in London. He was born on the 10th August 1879 and was schooled at Haileybury before passing into the Royal Military College. In August 1898, he was gazetted to the Royal Fusiliers. He served in the South African wars. Later moving into staff roles, he went to France at the outbreak of World War 1 as a General Staff Officer but was later appointed Quarter Master General of the Sixth Division. It was May who insisted Neville Talbot drop the name Church House and name the new soldiers’ club for his fallen brother, hence Talbot House. After the war he remained in the army in administrative roles but also joined the fledgling Toc H becoming Chairman of the Executive Committee, a position he held until Toc H received their Royal Charter when he stood aside for Alec Paterson. In 1925 when Paterson had to resign due to pressures of work, May stepped back up. He later became a Trustee and Vice President.

He married in 1906 Marguerite Geraldine Ramsay, only daughter of John Ramsay Drake. She died in 1931, and in the following year he married Jane, widow of Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Monteith. He had three sons by his first marriage. May died 26th October 1958.

Sir Reginald May

Walter Trevelyan Thomson

Thomson, who rarely used his given first name of Walter, was born in 1875 into a Quaker family from Stockton-On-Tees. He joined his father’s iron and steel business. When the Great War came, Thomson disagreed with the Society of Friend’s position against the war and resigned from the Quakers. He volunteered for the Royal Engineers where he was a Sergeant in the 312th Road Construction Company.

Interestingly Tubby claimed Thomson visited Talbot House in 1916 and that he (Tubby) wasn’t aware he was an MP but invited him to speak at a debate. Unfortunately although he first enlisted in December 1915, he wasn’t posted until January 1917 when he entered the war and he didn’t become an MP until 1918. He certainly did visit the House though and became a close personal friend of Tubby and a good friend to Toc H, its first in the House of Commons but not its last.

Thomson stood in the 1918 General Election, before his discharge, as a Coalition Liberal candidate in Middlesbrough West and was elected. He lived in Mark II when the House was sitting.

He held the seat for 10 years until his early death on the 8th February 1928. A close friend of Tubby, his ashes are in the Columbarium at All Hallows, one of the earliest Toc H members to be placed there. The urn originally stood in the chapel of St Francis (in the 14th century Undercroft only rediscovered in 1926) alongside Sister Rose Stapleton, one of the women Foundation members. Tubby conducted his funeral service at All Hallows and took part in his memorial service at St Margaret’s, Westminster.

So far we have looked at those whose names made it to lists of Executive Committee members. There were some others at these early meetings he were never appointed. We should still mention them as they were all important players in the early movement.

Tubby was one of course but I’ll not write his biography here; check out one of the biographies in the recent 10 Books blog.

Walter Trevelyan Thomson by Walter Stoneman 1921
© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Victor Macmillan

Macmillan was the military chaplain who relieved Tubby at Treport in the late summer of 1915 allowing him to first come home on leave and then return in a different position which of course led to the opening of Talbot House.

Macmillan was he was Resident Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson from 1904 to 1915. During his time as Temporary Chaplain to the Forces he conducted Davidson on his tour of the Western Front in 1917. He was Vicar of Kew and Bishop of Dover before becoming Bishop of Guildford in 1934 when he lived at Farnham Castle (Once the home of the Talbots when Edward was Bishop of Winchester and used by Toc H as a training/residential centre).

Not to be confused with the influential Toc H man, of the same name from Bristol branch.

John Victor Macmillan by Walter Stoneman 1939
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Hugh Richard Lawrie Sheppard

Another of Tubby’s cousins, the man universally known as Dick Sheppard was born in 1880. Educated at Marlborough then Trinity, Cambridge, Sheppard was Cosmo Lang’s secretary for a short while when he was Bishop of Stepney. After theological training at Cuddesdon he was priested in 1908. He became vicar of St Martin-in-the Fields in 1914 and began to turn into a true community centre. Although prone to exhaustion stemming from overwork, Sheppard spent six months of the war as a Chaplain in a military hospital in France. The experience almost broke him and certainly turned him into a staunch pacifist, one of the most well-known of the era. He found national fame in 1924 when he broadcast the first ever religious service on BBC Radio. Resigning because of his health in 1926 he later went on to help start the Peace Pledge Union and was appointed Rector of Glasgow University but died days later on 31st October 1937.

He was highly supportive of Tubby in the early days of Toc H allowing him to use the St Martin’s parish newsletter to spread the word and indeed, the church itself before Tubby moved to All Hallows. He also helped Tubby and Alec Paterson develop the Four Points of the Compass and attended some of the earliest meetings though never formally joined the Committee.

Cecil Montague Jacomb Ellis

The son of Toc H’s solicitor Montague Ellis (featured above), Cecil Ellis enlisted in December 1914 and served initially in the 5th Battalion of the Hampshire Regt and later transferred to the Intelligence Corps. He probably visited Talbot House since he was on the original invitation list to the meeting but doesn’t appear to have joined the Committee or taken a keen interest in Toc H. He was a partner in Ellis, Peirs & Co. alongside his father and Jack Peirs (above). He married Pamela Sage Unwin in September 1928.

Second Lieutenant Cecil Montague Jacomb Ellis
© IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205294298

Guy Sydenham Hoare

Guy Sydenham ‘Siddie’ Hoare was born in 1879. He was a Lay Clerical officer to the church in Portsmouth and that same time Tubby was a Curate in Portsea. Siddie enlisted in 1908, and was a Major in charge of a Wessex Territorial Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery near Ypres during the war. From here he visited Talbot House. After the war he devoted himself to Toc H and as an External Aspirant at the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, where he became resident in 1923 but died in 1926 aged just 47. A window in the rediscovered crypt at All-Hallows was restored in his memory.


The Royal Charter granted in December 1922 dramatically changed the structure of the organisation and the old committee disbanded. The new Council met at Mark I for the first time on Friday April 13th 1923. Familiar names were Montague Ellis (Now a Trustee), Alec Paterson (Now chair of the Central Executive), Tubby (Member of CE), John Hollis (CE), Reggie May (CE), William Musters (CE), Frank Partridge (CE), and Herbert Shiner (CE). The following old hands now found themselves on the Central Council: Tubby; Frank Partridge; Arthur Bates; Reggie May; Alec Paterson; and Herbert Shiner.

And thus ends our look at some of the people who helped get the Toc H Movement up and running over one hundred years ago. Thanks are due to them all.

Footnote: It is interesting just how many of the people we look up above have their ashes interred in the columbarium in the Undercroft at All Hallows. This surely shows how important Toc H must have been to them. These people are Tubby, May, Macfie, Ellis (Montague), Smithers, Talbot, Shiner, Sheppard, and Thomson. 

10 Book Blog

By Steve Smith

Finally got a holiday planned? Need something to read on Bognor beach when the wind dies down, or will your staycation take you no further than the back garden? Today’s brief blog features my selection of ten tomes of Toc H that everyone interested in the Movement really should read. I’ll admit these are books that focus more on its history than its philosophy but then I am a historian. If you want to ponder more the meaning of Toc H then there are plenty of options from Tubby’s own Earthquake Love to Ken Prideaux-Brune’s Ticket for a Journey, or Toc H Under Weigh by Peter Monie. The following ten though, give a good grounding of how Toc H began and some of what it has achieved.

Tales of Talbot House – P. B. Clayton

Devised really as a fundraiser and a way of promoting Tubby’s dream for a rebirth of Talbot House, this masterful book shares the magic of wartime Talbot House both with those who knew it personally and those who didn’t. Tales is perfect scene setter for Toc H and inside we learn the stories of how the Old House came to be and of some of the people who walked through its great front door. First published in 1919 it soon sold out and ran to several more editions. It is available online and printed copies are not that difficult to obtain though the prices have crept up over the past decade.

A Touch of Paradise in Hell – Jan Louagie

The most definitive single volume about Talbot House is undoubtedly Jan Louagie’s master work. Jan and his late wife Katrien originally wrote a definitive text in Dutch and those of us who cannot read anything more complicated than a spijskaart had to wait until 2015 and this similar, English language volume. Although it is very much a conglomeration of information from a variety of sources – including some of those listed here – this is done in an intelligent and informative way and is a detailed counterpoint to Tubby’s more emotional telling of the tales of Talbot House.

The Birth of a Movement – Barclay Baron

I make no secret of my admiration for Barclay Baron and I have covered his own life in some detail in an earlier blog. One of the things I most credit him with is for being the first person to attempt to chronicle the history of Toc H accurately and in some depth. He started this with Half the Battle, virtually his first contribution the Movement when he joined the staff in 1921 but The Birth of The Movement really moves the history along. Published originally in June 1933 as a Journal supplement called The Years Between, it was released in a small softback format immediately after the war in 1946. Detailed as I would expect any writing by Barkis to be, it is illustrated with reproductions of original documents. In some ways, the Journal supplement is nicer (Bigger format for instance) but Birth has the advantage of being published 13 years later and had useful revisions. I’ll tell you what, read both!

The Curious History of the Toc H Women’s Association – A. B. S. Macfie

Subtitled The First Phase 1917-1928 this book does just what it says on the spine and reveals the curious history of the origins and first years of the League of Women Helpers. And that story is told by the woman who was at the heart of it. Well illustrated with some fabulous photos.

The Further History of the Toc H Women’s Association – A. B. S. Macfie

What point is half a story? Having consumed Macfie’s first volume about the Women’s Movement, you must go on and read the second. This time Miss Macfie focusses on the period from 1929 forward. This of course includes the war years where the LWH really earned its wings as the men went off to war and the ladies earned the right to become a fully-fledged Movement and not just ‘helpers’.

Any Problem Is No Problem – Kenneth Prideaux Brune

Ken Prideaux-Brune is deeply integrated with Toc H both in his own right and through his parents. Prideaux House, one of the many incarnations of Mark III in Hackney,  was named for his father and Ken was a Patron of the Community of Reconciliation and Friendship and a friend of its founder, Gualter de Mello for several decades. This book really looks at the story of Mark III after Gualter became Warden and after it left Toc H’s hands to become an integral part of the Hackney community, something it remains to this day (though the book only goes up to the mid-nineties when it was published).

Tubby Clayton. A Personal Saga written – Melville Harcourt

There are three major biographies of Tubby, all very good in their own way but for me the most interesting is probably the first, written by Melville Harcourt in 1953. Harcourt, an American, writes this with a casualness a British writer might not have managed at the time. For me this makes Tubby more human, more fragile, more real! The other two biographies by the way are A Fool For Thy Feast by Linda Parker and Clayton of Toc H by Tresham Lever, both worth adding to your reading list.

A Kind of Love Affair – Kenneth Prideaux Brune

Another tome from Ken that looks at a particular strand of work that began in Toc H and eventually got legs of its own, and indeed, like Prideaux House, is still going to day. This book tells the story of Peter East, his work with the Bangladeshi community in the East End, the hostel at No. 7, which laid the foundations for the Khasdobir Youth Action Group.

A Birthday Book – Various Contributors

There are various compendiums of previously published articles about Toc H as well as collections of new articles by various contributors. A Birthday Book, published in 1936 for Toc H’s coming of age, falls into the latter category and includes essays from Tubby, Barkis, Macfie, Monie, Pat Leonard, Hubert Secretan and many more Toc H worthies. A beautiful snapshot of a time when Toc H was probably at its most radiant.

Letters From Flanders – P. B. Clayton

The rediscovery of letters Tubby wrote from France and Belgium to his mother unearthed long lost memories of life during wartime, and corrected a few Tubbyisms that had lodged in the Toc H timeline, not least the original opening date of the House. Had the letters just have been published as they were writ, this would have only been a very interesting book. Barclay Baron’s annotations lift it into the category of brilliant. A great way to understand the development of Talbot House through a chronology of Tubby’s missives home.