The Old House

Talbot House was built by the wealthy hoptraders of the Lebbe family in the 18th Century. Maurice Coevoet, a local banker, bought the house in 1911. In 1915, after the house was struck by a German shell, he decided to leave for a safer place with his family. Soon thereafter, the house was rented to the 6th division of the British army. It was here that Chaplain Philip "Tubby" Clayton opened a soldier’s club as an alternative for the often controversial nightlife in the rest of the city.

At first the club was called “Church House”, but Colonel Reginald May proposed - despite of Head Army Chaplain Neville Talbot's protest - to call it “Talbot House” after Gilbert Talbot, Neville’s brother who died on 30th July 1915. Gilbert Talbot became the symbol of a “Golden Generation” of young men who sacrificed their lives in the war.

Tubby was in charge of the clubhouse and wanted to make sure that there was a cosy and homely atmosphere for all, regardless of rank and status. The sign on the door of Tubby's office, the chaplains room, still reads:

"All rank abandon ye who enter here."

This sentence became one of the pillars of the house. Everyone that entered did so as a human being and not as a soldier or officer. Orders were also prohibited in the house. Tubby insisted that Talbot House had to be a place where people could forget about the war for just a moment. The sign next to the front door saying: "To pessimists, way out!" speaks volumes in this respect. The house is full of similar signs that, by making something clear in a humorous way, subtly take away the need for orders. Keeping a soldiers club without order and discipline might seem impossible, but by doing this Tubby succeeded none the less.

Did you know...

...the building dates back to the early 18th century. The top floor, attic, back porch and current facade were built on later.