Save Talbot House: Fundraising to keep historic WW1 soldiers club open
25/03/2020 - Poperinge - Source: Talbot House
The Every Man’s Club

In December 1915, British army chaplains founded a club in Poperinge, Flanders. Their goal was to create a home from home for over half a million weary and homesick troops that were in the area. Here, they could meet up with friends regardless of rank, have a cup of tea, write a letter home, enjoy a well-kept garden or play the piano. In the attic, a chapel offered some comfort and provided hope for the men who had to return to the trenches. The club was so successful that soon after the war, some 500 TocH clubs sprang up throughout the Commonwealth.

Since the reopening of the club in 1931, it has served as a living museum where one can also stay the night. Every year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists find a warm home from home and a cup of tea,  like the soldiers back then. It’s an authentic British pearl from the war years. Last winter, work on a new permanent exhibition commenced.

In ‘A House of People’ countless new tales of our rich history are told linked to some 500 artefacts from our collection, most of these never having been shown to the public before. 
Shut Up!

Since 1930, Talbot House has been owned by a small non-profit charity and run mostly by volunteers. The major investment in our new permanent exhibition, paid out of our own pocket, and the forced closure due to the corona outbreak, has left us without an income, which is no less than a financial nightmare. With cancellations till the autumn, we see our income fade away. A historic House of more than 250 years old requires almost constant maintenance and renovation. As things stand at the moment, it is going to be a struggle to make it till the end of the year.

When in the spring of 1918, our founding father Rev. Tubby Clayton was about to be evicted due to the advancing German forces, he didn’t give in without a fight. Several eviction orders followed, to which he invariably replied “Shut up!”, before he was eventually forced to set up a new club in a few huts in a meadow amongst the cows; incidentally, the hut he lived in is part of the new exhibition. Talbot House doesn’t close quietly…

We certainly have no intention to throw in the towel easily these days. A new campaign has been launched to save the House. In the first few hours, some 6 000 EUR has been donated. The funds will help us to survive while we have to remain closed, keep the House in good shape and help us to bridge the gap till we have sufficient income from visitors and guests again. In exchange for a donation, we offer all sorts of rewards ranging from free overnights stays and story tours to free breakfasts and membership of our Talbotousian family.  
The future

Just like after the liberation in 1944, we hope to welcome everyone once again after a period of forced closure, this time with a brunch guests can sign in on. Obviously no date can be set for now, but together we can overcome this crisis. Talbot House has a lot of plans for the future still. Our new permanent exhibition needs to be officially opened, new story tours for groups and schools launched and a new virtual guided tour for individual visitors is in the pipeline.

In the meantime, we try to keep the club open ‘virtually’ with lots of films and stories of the House on our social media. That way, everyone around the world can enjoy the club.
We hope you too can help us convince people to support our appeal so that we can preserve this precious piece of heritage for future generations. We remain available for questions, photos and interviews. The crowdfund campaign can be found on GoFundMe.

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