To Serve Them All My Days

By Steve Smith

Whilst the Toc H was a Movement made up of thousands of unpaid members in groups and branches across the globe, the organisation would have seized up if it wasn’t for a large and active staff team greasing the wheels and pushing the whole thing forward. Somewhat like the church, Toc H staff were expected to serve where they were needed and it was common-place for field staff to be moved from pillar to post to apply their skills where they fitted best. A fine example of this would be Stuart Greenacre, known widely in Toc H as ‘Greeno’. From his early beginnings as a branch member, Stuart joined the staff team in 1931 and spent 27 years serving Toc H across the UK and abroad and even passing over ‘in the saddle’ as we shall see. This is his story.

Greeno was born on the 25th of November 1901 Birmingham to Edward and Mabel Greenacre. He was christened Arthur but later preferred to be known by his middle name of Stuart. As a youngster he was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade, a good indicator of where his life was heading.

Like his father and many of his family members, Stuart began his career as a salesman in home furnishings but he was clearly looking for more than work from his life. In November 1923 we find one A. S. Greenacre as Honourable Secretary of the Oxford Federation of the Church of England Men’s’ Society (CEMS). I believe this is Stuart and given that quite a number of Toc H men were also in the CEMS, this may have been Stuart’s route to Toc H.

The first mention of Stuart being in Toc H is a newspaper report that retrospectively reports that he had been a member of the Nottingham group of Toc H where he held the post of Jobbie or Jobmaster, the man responsible for finding work for the branch and its members to carry out. He would have been a member in July 1924 when the group were elevated to Branch status and in December when their Lamp was first lit by the Prince of Wales in London.

It would be his transfer to the Manchester branch which would give him a role he could really get his teeth into. In January 1926 the Manchester district branches had opened a hostel at 16 Rutland Street in Hulme. An old pub, they retained the pub’s name of Bleak House and deliberately set out to attract the working class of the Hulme district. Toc H felt that it’s standard houses – the Marks or hostels it had opened across the country – were “too pleasant, too suburban”. Bleak House was something of a homeless shelter, working with the “down and outs” although former regulars of the pub also used to call in for a chat.

In the autumn of 1926 the main bar was turned into a coffee ‘stall’ and named in honour of the fallen as most rooms in Toc H hostels were; in this case it was the Unknown Soldiers’ Room. The Journal announced that “a coffee stall will be opened very night from 9’o’clock until 6 a.m., staffed by three members recruited from Manchester and Salford area”. Stuart was one of those members. It was popular with cabbies, tram-drivers and night workers and in a report he made to the Manchester branch in 1927 Stuart concluded

“people look to the Coffee Stall as a powerhouse for service – from dressing injuries to clearing up family differences and caring for the homeless.”

Stuart remained in the Manchester area until 1931. As well as running the coffee stall at Bleak House (until at least April 1928) he was the Honorary District Secretary and Salford District Pilot, all voluntary unpaid roles. However, in March 1931 The Journal announced that “A.S. Greenacre (“Greeno”) is to become the Secretary of the Southern Area, now enlarged by the addition of the Thames Valley and Oxford Districts”. This was a paid staff job and his postal address was listed as 47 Francis Street, London, Toc H’s headquarters at that time.

The role of the Area Secretary was varied and was fundamentally to act as a conduit between the branches in his area and Toc H HQ. He would represent Toc H by attending and speaking at local groups and branches, rallies (gatherings of groups and branches in an area), initiating members and presenting Rushlights and Lamps to groups as they earned them. He wouldn’t have done this in isolation though as HQ stalwarts like Tubby, Barclay Baron, Peter Monie and Pat Leonard all liked to attend rallies and so Stuart would have known all the Toc H executive very well. This meant that his abilities were brought to their attention and explains why – in October 1931 after just over six months in his first paid role – Stuart was assigned to Special Work. He left the Southern Area and was first sent to Northern Ireland to spend some time helping the groups there and the lone branch in Belfast. After Christmas he was sent to Scotland to do similar work there with Bob Sawers and then was posted to the South Western Area in a holding position until Easter.

In May 1932 it was announced that he was being appointed as Area Pilot in South Wales and Secretary, in the Western Area. His address is listed as Toc H, Insurance Buildings, New Street, Cardiff. This was the home of the Cardiff branch of the North British and Mercantile Insurance company, of which Walter Southwell-Jones was a director. Southwell-Jones was the Toc H benefactor who gave Mark V Southampton to the organisation and even sat on Central Council for a while. The fact that Toc H in Cardiff used this building was presumably no coincidence.

By the time of the staff conference in September 1932 Stuart was listed as South Wales & Western Area Secretary. This was two distinct Areas and quite a big responsibility given how quickly Toc H was expanding. In fact by July 1933 Stuart had relinquished South Wales and was focussing on the Western Area. His address was now the Bristol Mark but I don’t know if he was living there or it was just an office.

Then in October 1933 Toc H announced that six men were to be dispatched overseas (Two to New Zealand and four to Australia) to strengthen the groups and branches. Stuart’s brief was to forge new and stronger links of personal friendship between Toc H in the UK and in Australia, and also to assist Toc H Australia to solve for itself its own constitutional problems. Whilst several Ambassadors (Not least Tubby and Pat Leonard) had toured the Dominion to get Toc H going, this is the first time staff men have been assigned a formal tour of duty abroad.

During the Australian tour. Stuart is in the middle and Rex Calkin far right. Family photo

He left Southampton on the 17th January 1934 for Fremantle, on the Jervis Bay, a Commonwealth Line steamer built by the Australian government for the purpose of shipping migrants. His companions were Rex Calkin and Ronald Wraith. The fourth man seemed to have dropped off the list but Ronald’s new wife Doris travelled with them. The party became known as Regron (REx, GReeno & RONald). They were certainly busy travelling right across the continent and they seemed to meet their brief. In the 1935 Annual Report it was said that “the results of their visit exceed our most sanguine expectations”. In practical terms this was reflected by the six independent Toc H Associations in Australia effectively restructuring under a parent association.

With Rex on an Aussie beach

Stuart often enthused about his time in Australia and was a good friend of his travelling companion Rex Calkin, who was the General Secretary of Toc H. Stuart and Rex arrived back in England on the 2nd February 1935 (Leaving the Wraiths in Australia) and Stuart was posted as Acting Secretary East Midlands Area, switching with Alan Cowling who was sent to take up a Secretary post in Australia.  After a permanent Area Secretary was appointed in May, Stuart returned to Bristol to be Western Area Secretary again.

At a staff conference in 1935. Stuart sitting cross-legged centre front (Next to Barclay Baron)

It was whilst he was in Bristol that Stuart met Gertrude Bolton, the woman he would later marry. Gertrude was a staff member of the League of Women Helpers having left teaching after being been drawn to the Movement by Phyllis Wolfe. Phyllis was a fellow teacher at Camden House School in London and member of Toc H but both she and Gertrude joined the staff and formed something of a triumvirate with Elsie Potter, something of a legend in the LWH. Primrose recalls

“Mum told me about travelling up to Manchester to speak to groups of women about Toc H and what a shock it was for her to experience the conditions under which people lived. She also told me about taking East End kids on camping holidays and having to find shoes for them.”

Stuart’s next role change came in July 1936 shortly after the huge 21st birthday celebrations at Crystal Palace. A post-festival ‘cabinet reshuffle’ saw Stuart sent back to South Wales as Area Secretary (His place in the Western Area taken by Reg Smith whom we have featured in this blog). A year later, an unwell Stuart was replaced by a Mr Johnston. On recovering he was sent to help out in the Lincolnshire division of the East Midlands area but in December 1937 was posted to the South-Western Area as Area Secretary based at the local Toc H HQ at 42 St David’s Hill, Exeter. He was still holding this role at the time of the 1939 Register and his address was given as 12 Richmond Road, Exeter, a boarding house. As well as his paid role with Toc H, the register also recorded that he had some sort of voluntary role with the Women’s’ Voluntary Service Motor Transport unit. Incidentally, at the same time, Gertrude was living in lodgings at 21 Victoria Park Road, Exeter and was Regional Secretary for Toc H Women Helpers Travellers English Office.  Three months later, on the 9th December 1939, they were married. Gertrude left the staff at this time.

Gertrude and Stuart on their wedding day. Family photo

This was of course a time of great change for the entire world, not least Toc H, who had turned their attention to opening a new chain of Talbot Houses across the UK and around the world to serve the pastoral needs of Service Men and Women. I am working on a blog about these Services Clubs for later this year. Stuart was assigned as Warden at the Toc H Services Club in Plymouth and whilst running this he became a father for the first time when his son, christened Timothy, was born. Tim’s godparents were his mother’s great friend Phyllis Wolfe, and John Brunger. The family were living in Dawlish at the time and Stuart was still South Western Area Secretary and also Pilot for the region.

On the 1st February 1941 Stuart was privileged to become the Warden of a unique Toc H Services Club. The Toc H Services Club of America at 46 Union Street, Plymouth was funded by the British War Relief Society, an American humanitarian aid organisation. Tubby and Barclay Baron were at the opening which was performed by Lord Astor, Mayor of Plymouth.

The Union Jack and the American flag both hung over the front of the building causing some confusion since the USA was of course not yet in the war. On March 11th the Duke of Kent paid an official visit but then on March the 20th there was a surprise visit from the King and Queen who were visiting the nearby YMCA. Stuart recalled the event

“The first I knew was the arrival of a breathless sailor, having run all the way from the YMCA to tell me that ‘they are coming here. Lady Astor asked them and they said yes.’ I had just time to put my tie straight and walk to the door, and up came the Royal car. It was a great joy to receive and welcome them on behalf of Toc H. Most graciously they talked to many Service folk and lady helpers. Both the King and Queen said what a delightful house this is and wished it every possible success.”

However, two hours later Plymouth was undergoing its worst bombing yet and Stuart said

“All night we fought hard and saved the buildings opposite, fed and watered firemen and A.R.P. workers, bandaged the wounded, and cheered [up] the women and children.”

The next night the Toc H Club was damaged in further bombing and they shared with the YMCA whilst it was being repaired.

However Stuart wasn’t just running the club for Servicemen and women. He also organised an appeal for clothing for various citizens of Plymouth who had lost theirs in the dreadful bombings the city suffered. The South Western branches responded admirably and sent speaker vans around the streets of Devon and Cornwall and within 36 hours two branches alone (Seaton and St. Austell) had collected and sent to Stuart some 2000 items of clothing. Stuart wrote

“The story of St. Austell’s great gift is good. The Secretary [of the Toc H branch] is a school teacher. He showed my letter to the Head. The Head called the school together and read my letter to them and then sent the children home, and by the afternoon a lorry set out loaded with clothes for Plymouth. Within 48 hours of the second ‘blitz’, Seaton again sent 50 sacks of clothes.”

Stuart travelled to St. Austell on Saturday 3rd to open their new headquarters. In his speech he told the assembled crowd of Toc H men and signatories that he had had only 4½ hours sleep since the previous Sunday due to many further bombing raids in the Plymouth blitz.

Stuart with Austen Williams and Vincent Carter

He may well have welcomed a change of scenery when, by August 1941 he had been posted to Leicester as Area Secretary. He and Gertrude were living here when a daughter, Primrose arrived. Old friend Rex Calkin would be her Godfather.

Growing up as the daughter of a Toc H staff man presented Primrose with some difficulties. She recalls

“One of the things I found difficult as a child was explaining what my dad did, what his job was. Other kids had dads who were postmen or factory worker or doctors but what exactly was Toc H and what did dad actually do? ¨Well he goes to meetings and he meets lots of people and he likes helping people.”

Stuart was soon on the move again and by September 1945 was posted to London where he became the London regional Secretary based in the House of Charity in Soho Square which Toc H used during the war. After this regional office closed he was relocated to the main HQ at 47 Francis Street.

In October 1945 Stuart returned to Exeter to speak at a large gathering of Toc H (Women’s Section) as the League of Women Helpers were now known. He praised the efforts of all in the Services Clubs but stated

“I am anxious that the public shall not judge Toc H by its wartime suit – that was only an expression of our will to serve.”

And Stuart certainly still had the will to serve. One of the first things he did in London was get a Bayswater branch up and running.

Whilst in London, Stuart and Gertrude’s third child, Mark was born. His Godfather was Austen Williams, a Toc H Padre who had recently spent most of the war interned in German Prisoner of War camps after being captured working for Toc H with the BEF. His other Godparent was Elsie Potter, still a leading light in Toc H (Women’s Section).

The children were all quite young when the family relocated again to Chandler’s Ford in Hampshire when Stuart was appointed Southern Area Secretary in 1948. This would prove to be his final posting. It was here that the family really grew up and they have fond memories of the years spent in Hiltingbury Cottage in this pretty area near Southampton.

Primrose adds that

“during and after the war there was absolutely no anti-German talk in our house in fact I think Toc H must have befriended  some German families after the war because I can remember a very grateful Herr Claus”

Stuart was based at the Talbot House Seafaring Boys’ Residential Club where Inky Bean was Warden (ably assisted by Mrs Bean). The children occasionally accompanied Stuart to work. Mark still has a half size Valencia Acoustic Guitar bought for his 10th birthday from a Spanish sailor. He has strong recollections

“I distinctly remember being taught the game of billiards and snooker by a large sailor and thinking how huge the table was and how smooth the surface was. Then the Hythe Ferry going down the Solent past the Cunard Queens if they were in dock. Going on the little steam rain on the Mile long Hythe Pier. That’s a wonderful memory.”

At a garden party. L-R: Tim, Phyllis Wolfe, unknown, Tubby, Alison Macfie, Primrose, unknown, Macfie’s Norwich Terrier. Family photo

The family also knew well the nearby Mark V at Bassett. Mark again

“We all remember Toc H Mark 5 on the outskirts of Southampton. I remember garden parties and fund raising fetes there in the summer months. I usually got myself into some sort of trouble.”

Primrose recalls

“Lots of the Toc H people had nick names; Tubby, Sawbones (Hugh Sawbridge), Inky Bean, etc. We met lots of these people. They came to the house or we went to them or we met at various Toc H functions. I liked it when Tubby came or Miss Macfie because they both had terriers, Tubby’s was called Chippy and I was allowed to walk him round the garden holding onto the lead.

We also met some of the Winant volunteers. I can remember Dad being delighted because Anne Rockefeller was coming to see us. She of course being the granddaughter of the American business magnate.”

The Southern Area was huge and included the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands so he was away a lot at weekend conferences and evening meetings. Primrose says

“When he went to Jersey he always brought back some cherry brandy and we were allowed a thimbleful to taste. He was not the sort of Dad who went to the pub, he was a half pint man and he also found Mrs Bean’s dinners too huge to eat when he had lunch at the office in Southampton.”

Stuart started a Toc H branch in Chandler’s Ford in the mid-fifties and then restarted a Milton and Eastney group in early 1958. He was a church warden at St Boniface church and leader on a committee which planned St Martins in the Wood church as an offshoot of St Boniface. Primrose again

“I can remember being very pleased when Dad started up a branch of Toc H in Chandlers Ford because the Dads of some of the kids we knew joined and then they would maybe know what Toc H was.”

Unfortunately, in the early fifties Stuart got an infection in the spine, a spinal streptococcus. They operated at a hospital in Alton, Hampshire he was there for about 12 months. Mark remembers visiting him there several times with their mother. He says

“A very kind Toc H man built a device which allowed him to read a book lying down. That was so helpful during a very long stay in hospital. It took months to get him back on his feet again with them gradually increasing the elevation of his bed. Stuart wasn’t one to hang around in bed. He wanted to get back working for Toc H ASAP. I remember Mum saying that she thought he should have convalesced for a lot longer before returning to full time work with Toc H.”

Stuart in later life with a friend. Family photo

Sadly Stuart’s great service to Toc H was to end too abruptly and when he was far too young. On Thursday 15th May 1958, Stuart had been attending a meeting of the Management Committee of the PM Boys’ Club run by Toc H (so called because it served the hotel page boys and bell-hops who were only free in the afternoon). He was on the platform of Westminster station when he had a heart-attack. He was taken to hospital but died later that day aged only 56. Mark says

“A Red Cross nurse was standing next to him and she got some men to lift him off the train onto a station bench seat. He was taken to St Thomas Hospital on the south side of the river Thames. That Red Cross Nurse contacted Mum and they met later in London, what a wonderful woman. Many years later when Mum died whilst having lunch in the Cafeteria of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square she was also taken to St Thomas Hospital.”

If it was a great loss for Toc H then it was a tragedy for his family, the children still quite young and deprived of their father. Mark remembers

“I was in the cricket field across the road packing up the stumps after practice with a friend called Chris White who lived down the road. Prim came running out of our house calling me and screaming the news that dad had died. I remember dropping the stumps and just running off into the neighbouring corn field where I ran into John (Pop) Vining the farmer who did his best to comfort me with some very kind words.”

And Primrose adds

“I can remember the dad of one of Tim’s friends being heartbroken when dad died. I saw him crying at the Memorial Service. I was fifteen at the time and it made a great impression on me that so many people, the church was packed, would come to honour my Father. In the local paper the headline was ‘Friendship was his Forte¨ and I remember that because I had to look up the word forte to see what it meant.”

As well as a local memorial service at St Boniface (11th June) there was a service at All Hallows and Stuart’s ashes are in the Columbarium under the church. Gertrude’s ashes were also placed there when she died in 1984. Southern Region Chairman John Goss said of Stuart

“His outstanding quality was that he made a personal friend of everybody. He would go to tremendous lengths to help others in difficulties and try to share their burden.”

According to Primrose, Stuart’s philosophy was

“Get involved if good things are being done,

get involved to stop bad things being done

Always do your share”

I think it’s fair to say that Greeno got involved and certainly did his share.

Grateful thanks to Mark, Primrose and Tim Greenacre for their help in putting this blog together.

Primrose and Tim went to Poperinge with a Toc H party led by Rex Calkin in 1961. She says:

“Going into that loft at the top of Talbot House is something I will never forget especially the iconic sign Abandon Rank all ye who enter here. I love that.”

Mark’s ended up emigrating to the country his father so loved:

“The last time I saw Tubby Clayton was when he visited my Mother at her cottage near Shaftesbury in Dorset in 1971 the year I emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. Tubby was very supportive of my move to Australia and gave me the name of one of his most distinguished contacts Sir Edmund Herring, Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor of Victoria based in Melbourne. Needless to say I didn’t actually follow up on that contact.”

A Man of Conviction

By Steve Smith

From time to time this blog features the stories of the men and women who have made a significant impact on the history of Toc H. This is another such story but what makes this one different is its somewhat poignant ending. Tubby sometimes spoke of him at meetings and described him as “really nobody of any importance, just a very humble, normal fellow”. In Tubby’s understated way this was high-praise indeed.

William John Musters was born in Campbell Road, Bow in February 1897 to German parents. His father Justus (Sometimes Eustace or even Justice) was a baker and bread-maker, a trade dominated by Germans in the East End at that time. William’s surname was actually Muster but after he left the army it mutated to Musters for some reason. We will refer to him by his obvious nickname of ‘Mus’.

By the age of 14 Mus had left school and was working as a Warehouseman’s Clerk. Young Mus was also a footballer and soon began to gain a reputation as being a talented goal-keeper who could easily have turned professional if he had wanted it. Tubby later claimed to have heard of him in this capacity though they didn’t meet during World War One. Mus enlisted in April 1915 and was soon promoted to Sergeant in charge of four or five men and an 18-pounder gun. According to Tubby, Mus’ original commanding officer was a great man, a Major who was a brave outstanding Christian. Unfortunately he was killed and his replacement was a weak Subaltern who left Mus and his men alone at their guns soaking up a German barrage. Many of his men were killed and Mus himself was broken mentally and physically – a shattered foot.

His elder brother Henry Eustace Muster died on the 31st July 1917 and as his body was never found, is commemorated on the Menin Gate. This loss, combined with his anger at being abandoned by his officer on the front, left Mus very bitter about war. He was discharged in September 1918 and spent two years recovering in a Scottish hospital. Afterwards he found himself engaged to a young Scottish girl – Isabella Reekie Melville – and selling typewriters for the Yost typewriter company, an American business selling in the UK.

Meanwhile, in London, trying to get Toc H underway in 1919, Tubby had only the poorly typewriter he brought back from Poperinghe and £19 – from selling a medal he was awarded at Oxford – with which to replace it. He contacted Yost who sent out their young, limping salesman along to The Challenge office in Effingham House, Arundel Street. After explaining that his American masters would not let Tubby have anything new for £19 Mus eventually provided a reconditioned Yost No.10 for £10. However, Tubby’s first secretary, Mrs Payne, acquired on loan from a local hospital, refused to touch the No.10 so Tubby summoned his new, young salesman friend. The No.10 was taken away and a newer model replaced it.

That evening, at Tubby’s request, young Mus joined the prototype Toc H hostellers in the flat on Red Lion Square, where Tubby explained his plans. Shortly afterwards Mus left Yost and got a new job but had a few days off between posts which he gave to Tubby helping with the administration of Toc H. He was much missed by Tubby and Mrs Payne when he started his new position so they were delighted when three weeks later he turned up at the office – having quit his job – and announced he was postponing his wedding and coming to work for the fledgling Movement. And so our Mus became Toc H’s Registrar, a position he would hold for over 20 years, and the first paid staff member in Toc H.

As registrar he was responsible for keeping the membership records which, over the coming decade, would grow exponentially. And with his knowledge of accounting he also helped keep an eye on the expenditure even holding Tubby’s personal cheque book. He sat on the Finance Committee and did his best to stop the founding padre over-spending.

Mus moved into Mark I but when HQ moved to Mark II in September 1920 he was billeted there.  However, he was living across the river in Mark III on the 9th September 1922 when he finally married his fiancée Isabella. The wedding took place in the nearby St John’s Waterloo and was performed by Tubby, then still a Curate having not yet been appointed to All-Hallows. Though he had performed weddings whilst at Portsea, this is the first time I am aware of him marrying anyone in London. (The normal vicar of St Johns was of course John Woodhouse, a staunch Toc H man who had provided St John’s vicarage as Mark III. Freddie Domone, Secretary of Mark II, was best man.

The newlyweds first home was a flat created by members in a couple of deserted rooms over the stables in the mews near Mark I in Kensington. Even though the stairs apparently collapsed when furniture was being taken up, one shudders to think what such a property would be worth today.

His great interest was sport and Mus had much to do with the activities at Toc H’s newly acquired sports ground in Barnet. He ran Toc H’s annual sports day at the Folly Farm site and also organised a 5-a-side competition there.

Despite his shattered foot he also kept goal for both Toc H and in the 1925/26 season Wycombe Wanderers, one of the best amateur teams in their league. He made 31 First Team appearance for the Wanderers beginning with a game against the London Caledonians in September 1925 and finishing with a Cup game against Oxford City in October 1926. He even played for an Amateur Football Association ensemble against Tottenham in New Year’s Day 1924, alongside the formidable Charlie Thompson who has graced these pages before.

For much of this time, he and Isabelle lived at 22 Fossway in Dagenham but by the thirties had moved into central London and were living in Tavistock Road near Paddington. In 1939 he and Isabella moved into the Toc H Mark in Swindon along with several other HQ staff temporarily evacuated from London because of the ‘phoney’ war. At this time he was listed as Chief Accountant as well as Registrar. But Mus’ story was about to take an unexpected turn.

Near the beginning of the war in 1940 there was some discussion about whether Toc H could support pacifists or Conscientious Objectors. At one Toc H meeting a pacifist was allowed to speak which apparently upset some old soldiers. A branch official wrote to Tubby for his view on the matter and Tubby’s reply was through the pages of The Journal. To summarise Tubby stated that “No man on active service can be allowed to attend a meeting at which a Pacifist is eloquent” and “I should have a thought a Pacifist today would be content to leave Toc H alone”. The article ran over a couple of pages and Tubby’s tone was about as aggressive as he ever got on paper. This startlingly ‘hawkish’ outpouring from Tubby must have shocked many in Toc H  but perhaps none more so than Mus, who after serving the Movement so faithfully for over twenty years, handed Tubby his resignation. This came as a great surprise to all his colleagues but demonstrated just how entrenched his convictions, stemming from the bitterness left by the first war, were.

Life goes on and in December Mus started a new job – one which he beat several dozens of applicants to. A fortnight into his new role, on 14th January 1941, Mus left his West Kensington home after kissing Isabella goodbye. Two hours later, a colleague found him sitting in his chair in his office quite dead, taken by a heart attack. He was only 43.

Reeling from the destruction of his beloved All Hallows and living under the shadow of the belief that Talbot House had been destroyed, Tubby must have entered 1941 with some despondency. On the 8th of January he had lost old friend and Toc H president Lord Baden-Powell and on the 15th that important Toc H benefactor Lord Wakefield. But these were both old men who had lived long and worthy lives so surely the greatest tragedy for Tubby must have been the sudden death of the old friend who had so recently left his side because of a disagreement.

Still reeling from his recent departure, Tubby and all of Mus’ Toc H colleagues now had to come to terms with his premature death. Thankfully the bombing of All-Hallows had left the crypt and Columbarium mostly untouched and so a service was organised to receive Mus’ ashes. Tubby described that service in the Journal. The following are extracts from his long and poignant telling.

“We entered under the Cromwell tower….thankful that the winding staircase stood unimpeded….the Undercroft was lit by lamps and candles and Arthur Pettifer was there in charge with all arrangements beautifully ordered. We came East, passed the great blacksmiths’ gate and stood in a half circle, lit by candles which showed the place was quite unharmed….Unfairly I appealed to Barclay Baron to say a few words, without a moment’s warning. He complied and never used his powers to a nobler purpose……the kindly light shone softly on some names, fondly remembered, both of men and women, who had within Toc H fulfilled their task,
and Sergeant William Musters thus came home.”

Marks and Motors

The story of Lancelot Prideaux-Brune

By Steve Smith

The name of Prideaux-Brune has been attached to Toc H for its entire existence. Latterly this has been through the work of Ken Prideaux-Brune in his varied roles of Director, Editor of Point 3, International Secretary and much more. However, for decades the foremost Prideaux-Brune in the Movement was Ken’s father Lance. A Foundation Member and great friend of Tubby, Lance’s time with Toc H was just one facet of his incredible and fascinating life. This is a glimpse at that life.

The Reverend Edward Shapland Prideaux-Brune was the second son of Charles Glynn Prideaux-Brune of Prideaux Place in Padstow, the Prideaux family being of ancient Cornish roots (The Brune’s being from Hampshire). Edward took holy orders and from 1884 was incumbent Rector in the parish of Rowner in Gosport. Long associated with the family, the church of St. Mary contains a Brune family memorial dating back to 1559, and the manor can be traced back in the family to 1277 when it was granted to Sir William le Brun by Edward I.

It was in the Rectory that Lancelot Oglander Prideaux-Brune was born on 17th October 1894. At that time, the youngest of four – Humphrey, Cheston, and Hugh preceded him – he would gain a younger brother, Amyas, in 1903.

The happy father wrote to his cousin John Oglander, shortly after the birth thanking him for agreeing to be a Godfather.

Thank you very much for your kind letter and consent to be godfather to this quartus. My wife is delighted at your acceptance and it is indeed a great gratification to us both that the ancient relationship between the two families should be thus sealed, as likewise I am sure it will be at Padstow, when they hear of it. The baptism of this new arrival, which raises my mother’s grand-maternal status to the dignity of double figures, is fixed for Sunday next at the afternoon service, when I trust you will think of us. Our neighbour, Captain Martin of the 60th Rifles, is the other godfather and my sister-in-law, Rosalie Grant, the godmother. Alan Grant, my brother-in-law, will take your place (as proxy) on Sunday next. Then as to the name over which there has been a great discussion on the part of the 2 females (I mean my wife and Isolda) it is finally settled for Lancelot Grant Oglander. I was rather for Nicholas Oglander or Edmund Seldon, but the child’s mother has taken so much trouble, poor dear thing, as Mr. Carlton would say, that assuredly it is but fair that she should have the whole choosing of the name. When I say above that it was finally settled, it is of course subject to your approval with regard to the “Oglander”, as I am charged by the two, if you disapprove, to ask you if you would be so good as to write or should there be no time for that, to telegraph “No”. I am glad to give a good account of my father. He is going to and fro (Crediton to London) on North Cornwall Railway business. As the S.W.R. are assuming a hostile attitude, it is I hope some comfort to him to get something out of them by a frequent use of a free pass. I was much interested to hear that the Cadenabbia [retreat?] is known to Joan and yourself and equally sorry that Mrs. Oglander is suffering from a painful throat. With every wish from Rowner Rectory, I remain, etc.”

It was just a co-incidence, though an interesting one, that in 1910 a certain Tubby Clayton came to be a Curate at St Mary’s Portsea just 3 miles due east of Rowner and Lance’s family home. Moreover before Tubby’s time the Revd. Prideaux-Brune’s counterpart at Portsea was William Cosmo Lang, a great churchman who would have connections to both Talbot House and Toc H.

Educated at Marlborough College, a school founded in 1843 for the sons of Church of England clergy, Lance didn’t follow his father into holy orders but instead joined Lloyds bank in 1913 and moved to London. His career was soon interrupted by the war and Lance, who had an interest in all forms of motor transport, responded to an ad stating that the army desperately need motorcyclists. He applied and two weeks later he was summoned to a hangar and told “There’s a motorbike in that crate.  Put it together and show us you can ride it.” 

1914 newspaper advert for motor-cyclists

Two weeks later, on the 20th November 1914, he was in France as a Corporal in the Army Service Corps Motor Transport company attached to the Royal Engineers. As a despatch rider, his uniform came complete with spurs which were still issued to riders reflecting their earlier use of horses for transport. When he pointed out they were rather an impairment to motorbike riding, he was ordered to chuck them over a nearby hedge.

His stint as a rider was only a few months long as Lance was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and transferred on 1st July 1915. It wasn’t all plain-sailing though as his son Ken recalled:

“Although he was supposed to be sent to a motor transport unit, the order was such a scribble that MT was read as HT and he found himself in a horse transport unit.  He loathed horses and had never ridden but they said “We’ve been ordered down to the Somme so you’re going to have to come with us while the mistake is being sorted out.  But”, they went on, “We’ve got a horse that even you will be able to ride.  It pulled a milk cart in civilian life so it moves slowly and stops every 20 yards or so.”

The mistake was sorted out and Lance was assigned to the supply trains – columns of lorries – getting ammunition and other supplies to the batteries around the frontline near Ypres. This was how he came to be near Poperinghe and how in February 1916 he made his first visit to Talbot House. It would clearly impact his future. We don’t know how many times he visited but it was believed to be several.

Lance (with dog on lap) during World War 1

Lance survived the war despite collecting bruises after being blown clean off his motorbike early on, and suffering ptomaine poisoning towards the end. Like most people though, he didn’t escape the period totally unscathed. A cousin, Edmund Prideaux-Brune was killed during the fighting in May 1918 but, perhaps more tragically, in October 1917, Lance’s younger brother Amyas died after a short illness. He was away at Gresham’s School in Holt at the time and was only 14 years old.

Amyas’ obituary in the Gresham’s magazine

In March 1919 Lance left the army and returned to his job at Lloyds. At first the bank refused to employ him saying that he had been dismissed when he signed up in 1914 but the government had in fact made it illegal to sack anyone who enlisted so they had to take him back.

Soon afterwards he became an early resident – a Marksman – at Toc H Mark I in Queen’s Gate Gardens. This was the start of a lifelong relationship to Toc H Marks. In May 1921 Lance took over as a Warden, an honorary position where one of the Marksmen was responsible for overseeing the day to day running of the house. Lance replaced Herbert ‘Shi’ Shiner, Mark I’s first warden and a man who was a close friend. Shiner and his new wife Elizabeth moved to Petworth in Sussex where he was a big name in local government and a stalwart of Toc H in the area. Shi and Lance probably first met in Belgium where Shiner commanded a heavy gun battery.  In 1921 Lance represented hostellers on the London Club Committee, his first, but by no means last, committee role for the Movement.

‘Ghost’ image of Mark I. Tubby on bike

Lance was not cut out for banking and in 1921 struck out and formed the Automobile Service Company of Marylebone to sell and repair motor cars. The initials, ASC, paid tribute to the branch of the army in which he had served. This homage was reflected in his early choice of business partners and employees. His initial partner was George Henry Cope Morgan, formerly a 2nd Lt. in the Royal Garrison Artillery and they opened their first premises in half of D H Bonnella and sons showrooms at 60 Mortimer Street. Bonnella made small electrical appliances for the aviation industry but also supplied Ford so there was some synergy.

The garage in Great Portland Street

The business soon moved to larger premises at 166 Great Portland Street. Another former soldier joined the team as workshop manager. Cuthbert Marc Anthony (better known as Dick), was formerly a Staff Sergeant in the Army Service Corps in Lahore. The showroom and garage became agents for the French Seneschal car which Dick Anthony regularly raced to publicize the marque.

Advert January 1926

Cope went on to become a farmer (Possibly in South Africa) and at some point Lance recruited Geoffrey George White as his sales manager. White lived for a time at Mark VII in Fitzroy Square, a few hundred yards from the garage. Born in 1905, he was too young to have served in the war.

Lance also became a worshipper at All Hallows once Tubby was appointed there in late 1922. Tower Hill was to become another integral part of his life. He would become a Churchwarden at All Hallows from 1929 until 1937 and is commemorated with a stained glass window in the north aisle.

Memorial window in All Hallows

Lance remained living at the Toc H Mark until 1926 leaving only when he married Constance Tetley on 5th June. I am not certain how they met, nor is their son Ken, but Constance’s brother Geoffrey Tetley was Tubby’s aide de camp in 1925. They were both the children of the wealthy industrialist Henry Greenwood Tetley and his second wife Charlotte. Charlotte became a key benefactor for Tubby in several of his guises. She provided trusts for his ordinands’ scheme and for his work on Tower Hill with the Toc H and All Hallows, and Tetley Trusts. Through the latter she did Toc H a great service by providing them with 42 Trinity Square as a base for their works. Originally gifted as a clergy house, it performed a myriad of roles and I intend to tell the story of this Talbot House later this year. Lance would be a Trustee on both of these schemes.

The newlyweds lived at Stanhope Court in Tyburnia, part of the Hyde Park Estate but in 1934 moved to Thrift Wood House, Limpsfield, Surrey, a 1920s property in a wood running alongside the old roman road that ran from Peckham, to Lewes. Here they would spend the rest of their days.

Thrift Wood

Lance’s interest in motor cars went well beyond just selling them. He was a keen driver too. Although they never drove in motor circuit races they did compete in motor rallies throughout the thirties.  The first major rally of the modern era in Great Britain was the Royal Automobile Club Rally and Coachwork Competition of 1932. 341 competitors in unmodified cars started from nine different towns and cities (London, Bath, Norwich, Leamington, Buxton, Harrogate, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh.) Lance was in that number, as was Dick Anthony, both driving Aston Martins, which as we’ll see shortly, was their main marque of the time.

MV 2543 an Aston-Martin first registered to Lance

Lance and Constance specialised in the coachwork competitions (Concours d’Elegance) which required drivers to first complete the rally and then show their cars for the judges which required lots of overnight polishing, picking out the letters on the tyres in white paint, and generally making the car gleam. They achieved considerable success in this somewhat esoteric endeavour and their son Ken has a number of their medals.

Ken said of his parents:

Lance liked to say how, when they got married Constance agreed to teach him to dance and he agreed to teach her to drive; and, he added: ”I was much the better teacher!”  He always maintained that she was the better driver and she did all the night driving on the rallies. 

They also owned a 1926 Sunbeam with a crash gearbox and she was the only person who could drive this smoothly.  She once said that the invention of synchromesh had taken all the fun out of driving.  The Sunbeam was a magnificent vehicle.  There was a large gap between the front bench seat and the rear bench seat and so when the top was down the rear passengers had their own windscreen which they could unfold and pull towards them. Lance claims on one occasion to have conveyed two cricket teams about a mile from the field of play to his house for tea.  Men stood on both running boards and crammed together in the space between the front and rear seats.  The 1930s was indeed a different world!

I have compiled a table at the end of the blog showing Lance’s (and Constance, since she was regularly his co-driver) participation and performance in some of the major rallies of the era.

Meanwhile the premises on Great Portland Street were no longer adequate for Lance’s successful business and in early 1928 they moved to 10-14 Macklin Street just off Drury Lane. The premises adjoined the rear of the Winter Garden Theatre and although Lance continued to trade as Automobile Services Company at first, in the early thirties he changed the business’ name to Winter Garden Garages (previously the name of the premises only). They continued to sell Senechals until 1931 when Lance turned his attention to Aston Martin and they were loaned a recent Le Mans entrant from the factory, which Dick Anthony raced at Brooklands. At the time Aston Martin was somewhat circling the drain and, impressed by the car he had borrowed, Lance pumped money into the company in return for the sole London concession. By January 1932 he was a board member at Aston Martin. Although his time with them was short, he is known is some circles as the man who saved Aston Martin. Certainly he bankrolled their entries into the 1931 Le Mans. However, orders were not coming in fast enough and after poor sales at the Olympia Motor Show, Lance sold his stake in the company to Arthur Sutherland in March 1933.

Advert (Date Unknown)

Lance opened an additional garage at 179 Tottenham Court Road (aka 2-10 Pancras Street) where he continued to sell Aston Martins alongside other sports cars. His employees now included a junior salesman, Geoffrey Dunning Hunt who lived at the Brothers’ House in Kennington. Also too young to have served in the First World War, Hunt would join the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.

Despite no longer having a say in the running of the company, Lance did much to support Aston Martin including driving them in various rallies (See table at end) and supporting some independent drivers racing standard Astons at the 1934 Le Mans with Dick Anthony in charge of the pits. Lance and Dick were also on the first committee of the Aston Martin Owner’s Club convened in May 1935. Lance became the Honourable Secretary and occasionally hosted tea at his house if the club were on a trip in the Kent area.

One notable customer was Cicely Ethel Wilkinson, a pioneer aviator who qualified as a pilot in 1916 although her service was driving ambulances on the Western Front. She maintained her love of motors and on the 17th April 1937 bought an Aston Martin 15/98 from Lance at his Tottenham Court Road showroom.

Cicely Wilkinson’s Aston-Martin

They opened a further outlet at 185 High Holborn in early 1937 which would become their main showroom but they retained the premises at Macklin Street (100 yards away) and the showroom on Tottenham Court Road. Lance continued to sell the marque until 1938 when the company started selling directly from the factory. Instead Lance picked up a concession for Morgan which would lead to one of the great race stories of the time.

Prudence Fawcett was the daughter of a Sheffield solicitor with – much to her mother’s chagrin – a great love of sports cars. She had set up a little unofficial business importing Alfa Romeos to sell and Customs and Excise were hounding her for unpaid duty. Lance was a friend and he sold one of her Alfa-Romeos for her to pay off the debt.

Prudence Fawcett’s Alfa-Romeo, sold by Lance to pay off her debts

In 1937 Prudence visited Le Mans as the guest of the Duke of Westminster and announced that she wanted to enter the race the following year. To cut a long story short, Lance agreed to obtain a car from Morgan, get it ready to race, and provide the support team.

The Le Mans party en route. Photo Charles Trevelyan Collection

They all drove to Le Mans together and Lance managed the pits with Dick Anthony as mechanic; Constance kept the lap charts; and Geoffrey White was co-driver. A mutual friend of Lance and Prudence – Lord Wakefield – provided fuel and lubricants.

Dick Anthony working on Prudence Fawcett’s Morgan at Le Mans 1938

Prudence finished a respectable 13th out of 45 entrants of whom only 15 finished. It was Morgan’s first entry in Le Mans and also Prudence first and last major race as she met and married an aviator who persuaded her to give up motor racing!

The Winter Garage team after Le Mans at the Hostellerie des Ifs. Lance centre in the dark jacket, Constance in the hat.
Photo Charles Trevelyan Collection

Hunt and Anthony took part in time trials at Brooklands in September 1938 in a Morgan 4/4 and Lance put in another Morgan in the 1939 Le Mans; this time White and Anthony shared the driving and finished 15th.

But what of life outside business. Although Lance didn’t really engage in Toc H branch life once he left the Mark, he retained a close interest and close contact. In particular he took an interest in the management of the Marks and other residential properties and was Chairman of the Central Housing Committee for 30 years. He was on the CEC briefly in 1932 (representing Mark VII) and following his two year tenure became a Vice President in 1934. He would become a President in the late sixties, a position he would retain until his death. Additionally he was an Officer of the Corporation, Chairman of the Talbot House (Tower Hill) Management Committee and – as we have already seen – a trustee on various trusts connected to Toc H. When Toc H decided to create the first purpose-built Mark to replace Punch House in Hackney, Lance chaired the committee charged with raising the necessary funds and, when completed, the Mark was named Prideaux House in recognition of his long service to the Marks and his enthusiasm for them. All in all a rather busy man.

Prideaux House shortly after opening

Lance – and Constance – were also very close friends of Tubby. It was he who married them in 1926 and baptised their children. Most tellingly, it was to the Prideaux-Brunes that Tubby took himself in 1935 when he was unwell following an unforgiving series of world tours. Although he stayed in a farm house five minutes’ walk from the new family home in Limpsfield, he spent much time in their company whilst he recovered. Their company now included baby Kenneth who had been born in London on 17th November 1934. A sister – Claire – would join them in 1937.

The Raymond Mays Special

There was still one more important impact on the motoring scene to come from Lance. A close friend was Raymond Mays the well-known racing driver who co-founded the English Racing Automobiles stable (ERA) with Peter Berthon and Humphrey Cook. Mays originally raced Bugattis, Mercedes, Hillmans and other marques but in the late thirties developed and drove his own ERA cars. In 1938 his newest project was a road-legal version of their 4.5 litre Invicta but it was doomed from the start and indirectly caused the breakup of ERA. Cook walked away with the company name and Raymond Mays was left to pick up the pieces. He wasn’t alone though. Lance had already had some involvement as his good friend Mays wanted him to distribute the new cars. However there was some contention about this as another of May’s trading partners, Charles Follett, was vying for it too. Lance wrote a very forthright letter to businessman Philip Merton who was backing Follett’s case. The following extracts are from that letter:

I submit that we are the right people to distribute, as we know the trade well. We have the right premises, comprising ample floor space, a repair shop, petrol pumps etc., all in one spot. By next September we can be free of all agency commitments and with the exception of the Morgan, my intention would be not to take on any commitments for next season, so as to concentrate the full weight of my organization on launching the E.R.A.

Follett’s organization is not, in my opinion ideal for distributing your car. His premises are very good west-end showrooms, but you cannot make a wholesale depot of a west-end showroom. His commitments are far too heavy……..

………on the other hand, Follett would be a great help on the retail sales, and I therefore suggest the following. The Winter Garden Garages to be appointed the Sole London Distributors with the special care of the wholesale sales, and they would appoint Follett as a special main agent, giving him preferential deliveries and every possible help.

In the end, this was moot because as we saw, the original project was shelved. Instead, in August 1938 a new company Shelsley Motors was formed to sell the “Raymond Mays Special” sports tourer, based on the V8 Standard Flying 14.

FLN 388 Lance’s Raymond Mays Special (Colourized)

Shelsley, was named for the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb that Mays was famed for, was based at with the address 185 High Holborn although the  workshops were at Raymond Mays and Partners garage in Bourne. Lance, Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon and Phillip Merton were the directors.

The car was unveiled at the 1939 RAC Rally and reports speak highly of the car’s handling and the power of its modified engine based on a Standard 2.7 litre V8. Four were entered in the Rally. Three were Tourers with bodies by R.E.A.L. whilst the fourth was Lance’s own specially commissioned drop-head coupe with a Burgundy body by Carlton – registration FLN388. The Tourers were driven by Raymond Mays, Dick Anthony and Sammy Davis. Anthony didn’t finish due to a minor accident. Lance retained the drop-head until 1951 and it is still thought to exist today, believed to be in the USA. 

Advert 1939

Sadly this venture never got off the ground and only the four cars mentioned were built (There are rumours of a fifth but no conclusive evidence). Shelsley Motors was wound up on the 25th July 1939.

Dissolution of Shelsley Motors

After the breakup of ERA Lance tried to organise peace talks with Cook but ultimately they failed. However, he and Constance did later purchase the 1938 1.5 litre ERA Works car on behalf of Mays, for which he was delighted and most grateful to his old friends.

Anyhow, as the autumn of 1939 approached the whole world of motor sport was to in as much turmoil as everything else as war loomed. In the 1939 civil register a note is written against Lance’s entry saying that he will “be available for work from November”. I think this suggests that Lance was already thinking about temporarily or perhaps permanent closing his garages. Although Winter Garden Garages is still listed at Staffordshire Buildings in Macklin Street in the 1940 and 1941 trade directories, we know that Lance retired from this work early in the war. He maintained an interest though and in March 1943 attended a Motor-Racing Brains Trust meeting organised by Rivers Fletcher.

Dick Anthony went on to service airport plant for John Mowlam whilst Raymond Mays formed British Racing Motors (BRM) after the war. Lance would continue to work with Mays as a director of the motor business he ran, which involved monthly visits to Bourne.

Lance during World War II

Lance was recalled to the (now Royal) ASC being commissioned 1st August 1940 and served as Lieutenant and later Major in administrative posts at Northern Command headquarters in York.

After the war he made no attempts to revive his business though he sold the occasional car privately still including, in May 1951, his Raymond Mays Special drop-head coupe. However, retirement, if that’s what it was, was not spent pruning roses. Locally he was for many years churchwarden of Limpsfield church and chair of the governors of the local primary school.  

Selling his Raymond Mays Special in 1951

Just a few miles from the family home was Beech House in Nutfield. A sprawling country mansion, it was purchased in 1949 by the London Police Court Mission, a kind of forerunner to the probation service originally started by the Church of Temperance England Society. Lance was introduced to their work by George James Morley Jacob (Normally known just as Morley Jacob) who was a Toc H member and former Marksman and long-time secretary of the mission. Morley even spoke about his work to Mill Hill Toc H in 1932. The Nutfield home opened in May 1952 and was “A new type of home for delinquent boys where the problem is being tackled through work in the market garden, a craft department and in further education classes”. This was clearly aligned with Toc H’s work and it’s easy to see what attracted Lance. He became the chairman of the home’s committee.

Lance at a meet of the Worcester Park and Buckland Beagles in 1960

All this public work was on top of his continued Toc H connections. And Toc H would soon become a family thing. Constance belonged to the General Members’ branch of the Women’s Association and in the early fifties was on the Executive with Alison Macfie, Annie Barron, Nora Ellison and Norah Edwards helping steer the Women’s Movement toward integration. She was also involved with the purchase of Alison House, sharing Lance’s enthusiasm for Toc H properties.

Around 1951 Tubby called Lance and Constance ‘dismayed’ that his ADC had had the temerity to ask for a week off. Lance’s son Ken was called to the fold, and never left! Ken’s first work was to be Tubby’s companion on a trip to see Johnny MacMillan in Stirling. Later, whilst at Oxford, he would spend a few weeks as one of Tubby’s official ADCs and he would be the British organiser of the Winant Volunteers, the Claytons, an early member of the Projects team, editor of Point 3, International Secretary, and of course – for ten years plus emergency stand-ins – Director of the Movement. In fact at the time Ken became Director in 1974, Lance was a President and Constance was a Trustee!

Ken, Lance and Constance

Daughter Claire attended many Women’s meetings with her mother and was a volunteer waitress at the Lunch Club in Crutched Friars for several years.

Lance’s biggest input to Toc H remained with the Marks and other houses. As mentioned earlier he was heavily involved in fundraising for the Mark at Hackney which would be named in his honour. Lance was of course at the opening on 1st June 1962, along with the then Administrator George Davis, Tubby and the Queen Mother who opened it. John Burgess, a Warden at Mark III in the seventies, recalls Lance and Constance visiting Prideaux House in 1973 for inspection. Lance was also involved with Clayton House in Croydon.

Time though is relentless and Lance died on the 2nd May 1987 at the age of 92 and his wife of over sixty years, Constance followed less than two months later on the 26th June. A chapter closed.

Lance at Le Mans 1938

Major Rallies entered by Lance as Driver

This list is not necessarily complete

My grateful thanks to Ken Prideaux-Brune, John Burgess, and Charles Trevelyan for their help in putting this blog together. As ever, a plethora of online sources were used and I should particularly mention Motorsport magazine, Find My Past, and Ancestry.

Finally I am especially grateful to the following two sites for much of the motor racing history. I’m no petrol-head and these sites helped me understand much about what I have written. If you are interested I suggest you click the links and take a look

For the Prudence Fawcett story the Aero Racing Morgan Challenge site supplemented what I learned from her son, Charles Trevelyan.

For Raymond Mays info take a look at the Hodgkinsons’ site