First World War soldiers’ ‘haven from Hell’ celebrated at Guildhall Library

The house in Poperinge, just a few miles from the front line at Ypres, was regarded by soldiers as a haven from the horrors of the trenches where their comrades were killed in their tens of thousands.

Rank was irrelevant, orders were prohibited, and soldiers were encouraged to forget about the war as they relaxed in the Everyman’s Club and the gardens at Talbot House, which was established in 1915 in the Belgian town by army chaplains, Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton and Neville Talbot.

The extraordinary legacy of Talbot House will be celebrated in a centenary exhibition, Talbot House: An Oasis in a World Gone Crazy, at Guildhall Library from 12 October to 8 January 2016. The show, which recounts the story of ‘Tubby’ and this ‘oasis’ for soldiers during the First World War, will include items from Talbot House, the memoirs of ‘Tubby’, and part of the hut where he wrote them after fleeing from the Germans.

Raf Craenhals, Manager at The Talbot House Museum, said:

“We are delighted that the story of Talbot House during the First World War will be told in this exhibition at Guildhall Library. Talbot House was a home from home for countless soldiers during the First World War and we believe that some of that homely atmosphere will be recreated in this show. The centrepiece, a 100-year old British army cabin used by the founder of the House, will definitely leave an impression on those who see it.”

Sara Pink, Head of Guildhall Library, said:

“It will be our privilege to host ‘An Oasis in a World Gone Crazy’ to pay tribute to ‘Tubby’ Clayton and Neville Talbot’s efforts to provide a sanctuary for soldiers during the unimaginable horrors of the battlefields of the Great War. This major exhibition at Guildhall Library will tell their accounts - in their own words and using material drawn from the City’s London Metropolitan Archives – and will certainly engage and move visitors.”

Two ticketed events will be held during the exhibition:

Talbot House – A Haven from the Hell of the Trenches: Late View and Launch

Thursday 22 October, 6 - 8pm at Guildhall Library

£5 plus booking fee; booking essential from talbothouselateviewevent.eventbrite.co.uk (includes a wine and canapé reception)

Ken Prideaux-Brune, President of the Friends of Talbot House, will tell the story of Talbot House, which has been preserved as it was during the Great War and celebrates its centenary in December.

The Happy Hoppers Show

Thursday 26 November, 6 - 8pm at Guildhall Library

£10 plus booking fee; booking essential from happyhoppersshow.eventbrite.co.uk (includes a wine reception) – free gift for anyone in authentic First World War attire

The hop barn in Talbot House was converted into a theatre during the Great War. Performances were put on to provide some light relief to those who were about to travel to, or had just returned from, the front line. This will be a one-off performance, created by the Happy Hoppers, to reflect what was performed for the troops.

After the war, Philip Clayton set up the international Christian charity Toc. H, became Reverend of All Hallows by the Tower, and established strong links with the City. Talbot House, Poperinge. Everyman’s Sanctuary from the Tranches by Jan Louagie, Talbot House’s archivist, will be published in mid-October to coincide with the exhibition at Guildhall Library.


Notes for Editors:

Sara Pink, Head of Guildhall Library, and Raf Craenhals, Manager of The Talbot House Museum, are available for media interviews. Previews of the exhibition may be arranged for photographers and journalists. Please contact Andrew Buckingham (see below) for more details.

Talbot House: An Oasis in a World Gone Crazy runs from 12 October to 8 January 2016 at Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London, EC2V 7HH. Telephone 020 7332 1868 or 1870 / email guildhall.library@cityoflondon.gov.uk



Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Features), City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333 060

Email andrew.buckingham@cityoflondon.gov.uk


The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as the world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama; the Guildhall Library and Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives; a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge); the Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey; over 10,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. It is also London’s Port Health Authority and runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. It works in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on the regeneration of surrounding areas and the City Bridge Trust, which it oversees, donates more than £15m to charity annually.


Guildhall Library is a library of London history, the largest library collection in the world devoted to the history of a single city. The original library at Guildhall was founded in c.1425; and it opened as a public reference library in 1873. The Library values London’s history and traditions, offering a modern library space, open to all with access to e-resources and e-books, alongside access to its extensive printed books collection. Guildhall Library holds over 500,000 printed items, with the earliest printed book in its collection published in 1459. The library’s collections (including rare books and manuscripts) are available to everyone - and members of the public do not need to join the library or make an appointment to consult its collections.