The Houses That Love Built

By Steve Smith

This blog is part of a series of features that look at the history of the Marks and other properties of Toc H. In December 2020 I delivered an online webinar about the Toc H Marks in the UK on behalf of Talbot House, Belgium and this article is essentially a summary of some of the information from that online lecture. It contains details and images of the first 24 Toc H Marks in the UK as well as some of the other hostels. I may update this one frequently as I discover more pertinent facts

Watch the original webinar here

So let’s begin by reminding ourselves how it all began quickly look at how it all began..

When the war ended, Tubby Clayton had a dream. His dream was to recreate the fellowship of Talbot House in peace time. He wanted to open a building, a new Talbot House, in London. In April 1919, writing in The Messenger – the news-sheet of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the church of his good friend Dick Sheppard, Tubby outlined his plans to open a new house. He thought Trafalgar Square would be a good place.

Tubby’s dream

In June Tubby heard that the Guards’ Club was moving from its premises at 70 Pall Mall to a new building in Brook Street. He immediately set his eye on taking the old building for Toc H. However the leaseholders, the London Joint City and Midland Bank, had other ideas and Tubby’s plan was thwarted.

The Guards’ Club, Pall Mall

Looking elsewhere he turned to Red Lion Square. His sister Belle had taken up lodgings there during the war and Tubby often stayed at her flat during his leave. So in late 1919 he rented a five room flat on the top floor of 36 Red Lion Square and opened what was sometimes retrospectively known as Mark 00. It was here that the first Toc H hostellers lived, these being Tubby, Arthur Pettifer, Herbert Shiner, George Spragg and Frank Wilkins.

The only photo of the flat at Red Lion Square I can find. Britain From Above 1927

A constant stream of Foundation Members responding to Tubby’s Whizz-bangs turned up at the building and gained the attention of those in the flat by pulling on a piece of string dangling from the window with a luggage tag attached to the bottom. The tag, which dangled five feet off the pavement, bore the words – in Tubby’s handwriting – “Toc H, Talbot House, once of Poperinghe and Ypres”.

There’s no piece of string anymore; in fact there’s no 36 Red Lion Square at all because on the night of 10/11th May 1941 the Luftwaffe flattened it.

The site of 36 Red Lion Square after the war

The First London Houses

It was clear that Red Lion Square was not going to be big enough for what Tubby had in mind so when it came to light that the war-time organisation – the Anglo-South American Committee – had reached the end of its useful life and held properties in Kensington, a delegation approached the committee’s head – Dame Guthrie-Reid – and she agreed to rent one of those properties – No. 8 Queen’s Gate Place to Toc H.

Mark 0

8 Queen’s Gate Place, Kensington

Author’s photo 2008

Opened March 1920

Leased from Dame Guthrie-Reid’s Anglo-South American Committee

Negotiations started in late 1919 and its acquisition was discussed at a meeting of the newly formed Executive Committee on 23rd December 1919. It was announced as a done-deal in The Times on 12th January 1920. But they had barely occupied the Mark when they realised it was too small.

Closed May 1920

Current Status: Extant. Private apartments

Westminster Gazette May 1920

Mark I

23 Queen’s Gate Gardens, Kensington

Opened May 1920

Leased from Lord William Cecil

Used by William Cecil’s wife, Lady Amherst as her ‘wool depot’ during the war. The Cecils’ eldest  Capt. Hon. William Amherst Cecil died on 16 September 1914 during the First Battle of the Aisne whilst serving with 2nd Bn. Grenadier Guards.

On Ascension Day 1920 (May 13th) Mark I received the Old Carpenter’s Bench and rest of the chapel fittings from Talbot House (via the Ordination Schools at Le Touquet and Knutsford)

The above panels were originally in Queen’s Gate Gardens but transferred to 24 Pembridge gardens (See below) where it is believed they are still in place.

Closed 1927 (Mark relocated)

Building Status: Extant. Private apartments

Mark I

24 Pembridge Gardens, Notting Hill

Opened 4 July 1927

Purchase price donated anonymously

A diary was kept and published that tells the story of the first few years of this Mark’s life

Chapel dedicated 10th October 1927 (By Tubby)

24 Pembridge Gardens Then and Now

Mark I remained happily in Pembridge Gardens for the next 40 years but in the late sixties needed to reinvent itself. In July 1968 after period of closure it reopened as self-catering hostel and with fewer residents. It began working even more closely with the local community. Among the residents in 1969 was Selwyn Baptiste, one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival.

Two of the wardens around this time were Chris Holmes who went on to run Shelter and Frank Bailey who had been London’s first post-war black fireman and went on to become a social worker and trade union rep.

However by February 1971 Toc H decided to close the Mark down and leased it to Notting Hill Social Council when this lease expired around 1973 Toc H put the house up for sale. Being unsuccessful they instead ear-marked £12,000 to bring it up to standard and turn into a self-catering hostel for Bangladeshi students. Around 1977 the Bangladesh Centre was established as a joint venture between Toc H and the Bangladeshi Community and remains there to this day though Toc H are no longer involved. They sold the building for £165,000 in 1983.

Later this spring I intend to write the story the House in the years after it closed as a Toc H Mark.

Closed Feb 1971 (finally sold 1983)

Building Status: Extant. Bangladesh Centre

Mark II

123 St George’s Square, Pimlico, London

Opened September 1920

Gifted by the Duke of Westminster in memory of his mother Sibell Mary, Countess Grosvenor.

123 St George’s Square (and it’s neighbour. Note the Toc H logo on the pillar

Formerly the London home of Henry Cubitt, 2nd Baron Ashcombe. Toc H paid a Peppercorn Rent and were eventually – in December 1929 – granted a lease of 999 years. It not only became the second hostel but also Toc H headquarters and remained so until HQ moved to offices at 1 Queen Anne’s Gate in February 1926.

The house next door was also gifted to Toc H but rather than occupy it, Toc H chose to let it and benefit from the rents.

In 1969 it underwent a major refurbishment and had to run for six months with six residents instead of 40 which crippled it financially.

Among the Memorial rooms in Mark II was Bernard’s Room. Bernard was Bernard George Norton who died on 6th April 1917. He was in the choir at Talbot House and painted the sign board which hung outside the Old House. This signboard was transferred to Mark II where it hung before being returned to Poperinge. Another room at Mark II was the Trench Room.

Closed 1977

Building Status: Extant. Offices/flats

Mark III

148 York Road, Waterloo

See  for the full story

Opened 21st May 1921

Formerly the vicarage of St John’s Waterloo, new vicar John Woodhouse arranged for it to be leased to Toc H

Smaller than its brothers and the only one south of the river at the time it was often known as the Cinderella Mark. However it survived nine years in Lambeth until London County Council stuck their oar in. A plan to build an extension to County Hall was in the offing and in early 1930, seeing the writing on the wall, Toc H dispersed it’s Marksmen across the London Mark diaspora and temporarily moved HQ there whilst waiting for their new offices in Francis Street to be ready.

Wrongly captioned photo of Mark III which was 148 York Road

Closed 1930

Current Status: Demolished. The Forum Magnum Square at the County Hall extension now stands on the spot

Mark III

Church Crescent, Hackney

Opened 1930

A Punch magazine appeal raised the funds for Toc H to buy this former rectory in South Hackney.

Renamed Punch House Mark III continued to exist relatively quietly in Hackney through the nineteen thirties but by 1939, in common with the rest of the Marks, it suffered as young men were called to war. In December 1939 the last residents moved out of Mark III and it was moth-balled.

In 1940 it stood empty and was badly bombed. It was initially reopened in 1947 and by April 1949 it was back to full capacity, officially reopening on the 5th April 1950.

However refurbished or not, there was no getting away from the fact the building was still a Victorian Rectory! So a bold plan to replace it with Toc H’s first purpose built Mark began in the late fifties.

The last guest night of the old Mark III was held on the 29th November 1960

Punch House

Closed on the 10th December 1960 with demolition commencing on the 15th.

Building Status: Demolished to make way for Prideaux House

Prideaux House under construction

Mark III

Church Crescent, Hackney

Opened officially by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at 4.15pm on Friday 1st June 1962.

Built through a special fundraising campaign

Once complete, the new Prideaux House (named for Lancelot Prideaux-Brune) was a much modernised hostel. Many of the rooms were named for contributors to the appeal but perhaps the most poignant was the Our Twelve Room. Endowed by Mrs Alexandra Louise Gray, it is memory of twelve members of her family who gave their lives during the First World War.

It had 12 three-bed rooms along with quarters for the Warden and Padre and a separate suite for the housekeeper and her assistant. Then there was a wide array of rooms, meeting the hostellers every need, from the ubiquitous Chapel to a Dark Room.

Perhaps the most important figure in Mark III’s long life was Gualter de Mello. He joined Toc H in his native Brazil in 1953 and was initiated by Alison Macfie whilst on her travels in South America. In 1957 Gualter spent a year at Mark I whilst acting as Tubby’s weekend ADC and then some time at the Brothers’ House. After doing his theological training at Ely Gualter was ordained at St Paul’s in 1964 after which he took a curacy at St John of Jerusalem Church in South Hackney and became padre for Mark III where he moved to in September 1964. After his curacy finished he became Warden as well as Padre.

To understand the work of Prideaux House under Gualter I can do no better than suggest you seek out a copy of Kenneth Prideaux-Brune’s Any Problem Is No Problem published in 1996. What follows is but a glance.

Under Gualter’s guidance Prideaux House began to turn from a hostel into a community centre. Gualter ran the House successfully but clashed with Toc H Executive over his vision. This led to him leaving the Mark for a time and a succession of wardens running it in his place. Then in 1982, as Toc H disposed of the Marks, Gualter was able to buy it for a new charity he has set up, and to cut a long story short, could run it as the Community House he had always wanted.

Closed 2002 but rebuilt

Building Status: Demolished to make way for a new (current) Prideaux House

The new and current Prideaux House

Mark IV

Upper Park Road, Manchester

Opened April 1922

Baron’s sketch of Mark IV

In 1921 a new appeal was made and in April 1922, largely due to the appeal, the first provincial Mark opened in Manchester. Talbotousian Pat Leonard was shipped up from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to run things. Gartness was a huge old house on Upper Park Road just east of Moss Side. It was a hostel for Theological students before Toc H acquired it and on 19th February 1921 William Temple chaired a meeting at which Tubby outlined the aims of Toc H. A year later the house was Toc H’s. Described as being built by a Christmas Card designer because of its Ivy covered walls, Pat and other hostellers ‘dug out’ the old cellar to create a beautiful chapel.

The house was blessed by Neville Talbot 28th April 1922 and officially open the following day

The chapel at Mark IV

The Dining Room was added to the house as an extension in 1926. It was a memorial to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The following slideshow shows some of the plaques which now survive in the possession of Tameside museums.

Sir Matt Busby opened a further extension on 15 Nov 1969. The proceedings were relayed to local hospitals through the Hospital Radio facilities run by Toc H. Mark IV had a purpose built studio in the new wing. We’ll hear more about Toc H’s involvement with hospital radio shortly.

Closed 1983

Building Status: It was demolished in 2007 when they built a mosque next door. At present the Gartness site is still vacant and used for car parking.

Perhaps one of the most lasting memorials of Mark IV though is a rugby team. In 1924 members of the Mark formed a rugby club which they called Toc H Manchester. After moving to various sites the club arrived in Didsbury and in 1986 the name was changed to Didsbury Toc H. It is still active today

Late 60s with new extension on the right

Mark V

574 Winchester Road, Bassett

Opened January 1923

An advert appeared in the Times in August 1922 stating that the owner of a medium-sized house with six acres of beautiful grounds “might be disposed to give it to a religious or charitable institution if satisfied as to the use to which it would be put. It was essential, the advert continued, that house should be used as a permanent memorial to one who fell, and preferably for the benefit of those hurt in the war”

The house was the Firs; the owner was Walter Southwell Jones; and the man who fell in the war was his son, Second Lt. Louis Jones who was born in the house and died 20th June 1917 in France. Tubby happened to be staying at Little Hatchett, his family’s holiday home nearby, and he shot across to see Southwell-Jones.

Baron’s sketch of Mark V

It was a bit classier than its urban brothers boasting a tennis courts and no less than three bowling greens and a 1.5 acre wood. Some of the bedrooms even had ensuite WCs – virtually unheard of in the UK at the time.

Louis Jones’ old bedroom was turned into the chapel.

During its life the Mark was connected with one particular piece of Toc H work that needs much more research. That is Hospital Radio, in particular football commentaries. Its origins are a little hazy with several branches (and one or two other organisations) claiming its genesis. We believe though that it started through the work with the blind that Toc H was well-known for; a sighted member would take a blind person to a football match and describe the action to them as the game went on. From this came the idea of broadcasting a commentary down GPO telephone lines specifically to local hospitals. In 1966 Southampton Hospital Radio started broadcasting live from the old wine cellar under the Mark. A complete programme service came out of there, including newscasts, children’s programmes. In August 1971, they moved above ground, having raised £9,000 to build a single storey, two studio building in the cabbage patch alongside the Toc H Mark V Youth Hostel.

Closed as a Mark in the early 70s but the house served as a Toc H centre until 1975

A postcard of Mark V

Building Status: Demolished 1978 to make way for new housing

In 1973 the name Talbot Close had been approved by the District council as the name for the approach to the new flats and is the last remaining sign of Toc H as the whole site is now covered in new properties.

Mark VI

71 Newhall Street, Birmingham

Opened 1923

Cathedral House, Birmingham

Leased from the Boys and Girls Union who continued to share part of the House with Toc H.

Known as Cathedral House, the cellar chapel was named Arras because it apparently looked like the Eleventh Division cellar chapel in Arras in 1918. It included the Altar Frontal from Poperinge.

The House was too small for both organisations so Toc H set out to find another Birmingham House.

Closed Toc H moved out 1925

Building Status: Demolished. Unknown date

Mark VI

77 Clifford Street, Birmingham

Opened Spring 1925

A disused pub, The Alhambra, the beer cellar was used to recreate the “Little Cellar Chapel of Arras” which was even more beautiful than before and was considered the powerhouse of Toc H in Birmingham. It opened officially on Friday 13th November and the cellar chapel was dedicated by Bishop Talbot (Neville and Gilbert’s father Edward)

A group of Toc H men outside the old Alhambra pub

I finally manged to find a photo of the second Mark VI. This is taken in Guildford Street, Lozells looking towards Clifford Street. The building on the right is the closed Alhambra pub and now the Toc H Mark so the photo was taken between 1925 and 1937. Note the big metal Toc H sign out the front (Designed and manufactured by Boddy Brothers of Norwich) and the Toc H blazer badge on the chap in front of the car.

Closed 1936

Building Status: Demolished. Unknown date

Mark VI

6 Wake Green Road

Opened 18th January 1937

Gifted to Toc H by Sir Herbert Austin (Founder of Austin Motors) in memory of his son Vernon

Plaque commemorating the assistance of Lord Austin

There were rooms for 14 residents and a Warden but the ground floor of the house was
for community use including Moseley and District Drama Group, who were renowned for their performances of Shakespeare plays in an amphitheatre in the garden. And in many ways Mark VI’s most exciting ‘room’ was the huge garden which included an adventure playground with aerial walkways. There were also outbuildings which contained an office and a ‘bunk room’ with 2 sets of bunk beds for putting up volunteers. The Mark had long gone self-catering and was in fact repurposing itself as a Community House. They sold it in 1973/4 on the understanding that Toc H could continue to use it for two years when they moved again to 24 Grove Avenue but by now they were no longer a Mark but something entirely different and very much of the time.

Rear view of the house showing the sunken garden

Closed 1975?

Building Status: Demolished

Mark VII

15 Fitzroy Square, London

Opened 7th November 1922

It was originally leased as the vicarage for All Hallows but Tubby sublet it to Toc H. In 1923 an anonymous female donor gave £6000 for Toc H to buy the house (almost certainly the Queen (Mary of Teck) but don’t tell everyone.)

Entrance with All Hallows and Toc H signs to the right

In autumn 1929 the House was extended into 15 Richardson’s Mews behind it and they opened a new Club Room 

Closed 1982

Building Status: Extant. Flats/Offices


Christ Church Road, Pitsmoor, Sheffield

Opened July 7th 1923

The House came about when Tubby was wandering around Sheffield with Douglas Leng and six other Foundation members of Sheffield Toc H. Tubby spotted a suitable house and waiting for a nearby policeman to turn his back, hurried over a chalked a cross on the door.

Poor quality pic but the only one I have of the Sheffield Mark

Purchase price (£1275) borrowed from HQ.

The house was Westwood in Christ Church Road and was formerly the residence of Sir William Ellis, the Civil Engineer and steelmaker.

So Mark VIII in Sheffield was opened a little behind schedule on July 7th 1923 – the first birthday of Sheffield branch – by Lord Plumer, a President of Toc H.

Sheffield was a fairly short-lived Mark which closed in 1938 but the house was retained as centre for South Yorks division until at least 1951.

The chapel in the Sheffield Mark

Memorial rooms included the BB Room – no, not the Barclay Baron Room but dedicated to Sheffield Battalion Boys Brigade. Later there was a Douglas Leng Room, named for the aforementioned Branch member who died aged 43. Captain Leng served in the Yorkshire Dragoons and was a Director of the Sheffield Telegraph. He died from gunshot wounds and was presumed to have taken his own life.

Closed 1938

Building Status: ??

Mark IX

29 & 31 St Paul’s Road, Bristol

Opened March 1923 (Officially opened in June)

In May 1922 Bristol was in Toc H’s sights and it was only natural that Barclay Baron would be involved given it was the city of his birth and he had many connections there so he became appeal director. Toc H were led locally by John ‘Nick’ Nicholson (of Poperinghe and Knutsford renown) who was also a Rotarian and that group did much to assist Baron.

Actually two houses knocked together, they were bought by Stanley Gange (Rotarian?) and leased at low rent to Toc H.

The first Warden was a Mr Lewis formerly an officer with the 4th Gloucesters and the Boys’ Brigade

Closed 1944

Building Status: ??

It was almost certainly in relation to this appeal that he and Tubby came to be sat waiting in a Bristol stockbroker’s office for an appointment. Whilst waiting they discussed the idea of a symbol for Toc H. Baron suggested an oil lamp similar to those used by Christians in the catacombs under Rome.

Mark IX

16 Cotham Park, Bristol

Opened 1944

In 1944 Mark IX moved to Ashley Down House. It was formerly Hampton House School but they were evacuated to Stroud.

Ashley Down House today

One of the big activities from here was the Bristol Toc H Film Unit. They took a projector round and showed films in hospitals, youth clubs, care homes etc. Big part of Toc H work. Perhaps it was no surprise that one of the local Toc H members was Frank Gillard a renowned broadcaster who was later part-responsible for getting the BBC’s Bristol based Natural History Fil Unit established. He is also well remembered in Toc H as the broadcaster who reported on the liberation of Poperinge and Talbot House in 1944

By 1955 the Mark was in terrible disrepair and appeal launched to save it but to no avail and it closed before the decade was out.

Closed 1950s

Building Status: Extant. Now listed

Mark X

40 Clarendon Street, Hull

Opened October 1923

The House was organised for Toc H by Colonel W H Carver, later a Conservative MP and leader of the Toc H group in the House of Commons. He personally contributed £250 towards the appeal and about £1000 was raised locally, the remainder being borrowed from Toc H HQ

Clarendon House, Hull

It was officially opened on.  Much was made during the opening ceremony of the East Ridings role in the recovery of Gilbert Talbot’s body by a party from the East Yorks Regiment led by Sergeant Shepherd (Later RSM Shepherd). A member of Toc H, he was present at the opening.

Clarendon House at was a former home for the Church of England Incorporated Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays. This society was later renamed to the less linguistically challenging Church of England Children’s Society and survives today simply as the Children’s Society.

Around 1931 the branch couldn’t maintain it as a Mark and it was delisted though kept for a while.

Closed c.1931

Building Status: Demolished, a playing field

Mark X

Princes Avenue, Hull

Opened 1938

Westbourne House didn’t last long and was closed permanently by the Luftwaffe

Closed 1941

Building Status: Destroyed by enemy bombing WWII

Mark XI

44 Princess Street, Leicester

Opened October 1923

In August 1923 the Central Executive approved Leicester’s request to buy Stonesby House, at for £5000. It belonged to Dr Donald, a friend of Toc H and was in De Montfort Square. Standing on a corner overlooking a garden, it was strongly reminiscent of Mark I at 23 Queen’s Gate Gardens.

Baron’s sketch of Leicester

Leicester opened on the 15th Oct 1923, a week after the storming party took possession

Closed 1973

Building Status: Extant. Now offices

The Leicester Mark today

Mark XII

Sedburgh Road, Halifax

Opened 22nd February 1924

Baron’s sketch of Shaw Royd

Opened in Shaw Royd, a large house on the corner of Sedburgh Road and Shaw Hill Lane lately the home of Colonel Sir Edward Whitley, himself a Toc H member. It was announced that Toc H acquired it in October 1923 and the storming party got it ready so that there could be a huge Housewarming party on New Year’s Eve 1923 though the official opening was not until 22nd February 1924.

Closed December 1934 but may have been downgraded from Mark as early as 1931. The Shaw Royd estate was sold by Toc H in 1939.

Building Status: Demolished

A poor quality photo of the Halifax Mark


119 Kennington Park Road, London

Opened 13th December 1924 by the Prince of Wales on the afternoon of the 1924 Birthday Festival which the Prince later attended.

Gifted by Mrs Dilberoglue in memory of her two sons killed in the war.  The gift was announced at the 1923 Birthday Festival in December 1923

Dick and Gus Dilberoglue were both at Eton; both Captains of their houses and both rowed in the ‘Eights’. Both went to war as well and Dick fell on 15th September 1916 leading his company of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards whilst his brother Gus acting as Adjutant to the 3rd King’s Own Hussars died, near Domart, on 1st April 1918.

The Brothers’ House. Photo Victor Markham

Toc H was looking for a new house south of the river when Tubby’s friend Dr Cyril Garbett, then Bishop of Southwark, pointed him towards a vacant former servicemen’s club on Kennington Park Road. It needed money spending on it and seemed out of Toc H’s reach until Tubby recalled the mother he had corresponded with recently. Mrs Dilberoglue came to look at it and that was that.

The Brothers’ House, as it is always known, tended to have slightly older Marksmen who stayed longer. Amongst them was the highly loved and respected Neville Minas whose story I have told previously. As well as a Marksmen Neville Honorary Warden at the House for several years.

Plans to refurbish it as a Community House in 1982 amounted to little and it was sold for £96,000 in early 1983.

Closed 1983

Building Status: Still standing. Broken into flats

Mark XIV

1 Eccles Old Road, Salford

Opened November 1923?

Oakfield at in Pendleton was presented to Toc H in 1923 by Henry Leigh Groves in memory of his parents. Henry Leigh Groves was for a long time High Sherriff of Westmorland and other acts of generosity including buying the bed of Lake Windermere to give to Windermere Urban District Council. His parents were William and Eliza Ann Grimble Groves. William was part of the wealthy brewing family and one of two brothers who started Salford Lads Club in 1903.

Mark XIV Salford

It was dedicated on 26th November 1924 by the Lord Bishop of Manchester having survived for a year as an ‘experiment’.

One of the leading lights in Salford Toc H was Michael Coleman who later served as Vicar at All Hallows whilst Tubby was in the Orkneys on war work. In 1943 Coleman went to work for Toc H in Canada and was a Canon at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria. He became Bishop of Qu’Appelle in 1950.

Closed and sold in the late sixties – with the donor’s permission – to financially support Mark IV in Manchester.

Building Status: Demolished

Another view of Mark XIV

Mark XV

31 The Common (Kempt Terrace), Woolwich

Date Opened 6 December 1924

As early as March 1924, the Central Executive called for a House in Woolwich as a base for Rev Hutchinson, newly appointed chaplain for S.E. London. By the 9th May Toc H had bought and taken possession of 31 The Common (Kempt Terrace), Woolwich (Now the South Circular)

Almost certainly built for Board of Ordnance Mark XV stood two doors south of General Gordon’s birthplace on the same Terrace. It was officially opened on 6th December 1924 by Sir Acton Blake, master of Trinity House.

Mark XV (under the arrow) Woolwich. General Gordon was born in the end house on the left

Closed 1941

Badly damaged during the war, Mark XX was closed down

Building Status: The House was demolished in 1971 to accommodate the widening of the South Circular

  • A spanner is thrown in the works of Mark numbering when the next house to designated number XXII in honour of the 22nd (Queen’s) London regiment opposite whose barracks it stands


3 Jamaica Road, Bermondsey

Opened ??

Alec Paterson, one of the early drivers of Toc H, served in the Bermondsey Battalion of the regiment and the Mark was named Alexander Paterson House.

Whilst it was very much a Toc H Mark, many of the first hostellers were to be drawn from the ranks of the Oxford and Bermondsey Club which operated in the area. The OBC was, of course, often called the Cradle of Toc. Charlie Thompson who’d previously run a boxing club at Mark III was involved with both Toc H and the OBC so made an obvious choice for Warden. Charlie was also a gents’ outfitter who supplied ties and blazer badges for Toc H for decades.

The Bermondsey Mark shown by the arrow

The building was an old pawn shop right on the junction with Abbey Street, it wasn’t it remarkable condition so in 1927 Toc H were forced to abandon it before it fell down. There was much discussion in the ensuing months about allowing this tatty, decrepit, building to become an eyesore with Toc H signs still attached. Ironically it would remain standing for decades before finally being pulled down

Closed 1927

Building Status: Demolished


95 Denmark Hill, London

Opened 28th May 1930

There was a brief hiatus until October 1928 when it was announced that Mark XXII was to reopen but at some 2½ miles away. In fact it wouldn’t actually open until the 28th May 1930 when it was once again renamed as Alexander Paterson House. It was opened by Lord and Lady Plumer. It contained the first garden of any size in a Toc H Mark.

Denamrk Hill today

Toc H moved out in the late sixties and from 1st April 1971 it was leased for five years to the St Giles Centre re Social Work in Camberwell before being finally sold.

Building Status: Extant

Denmark Hill in the 70s when a shelter for Crisis At Christmas

Mark XVI

Charlotte Row, High Street, Swindon

Opened 10th March 1923

In conjunction with Marlborough College?

Swindon’s house Redville, was opened with some pomp and circumstance on 10th March 1923 by General Hunter-Watson. However it was listed as a hostel and unnumbered as HQ refused to give it Mark status because it lacked a chapel and fewer than half its residents were in Toc H. Finally this changed and it was elevated to Mark status in 1925.

Many of the hostellers were apprentices with the Great Western Railway whose engineering works had dominated the town since 1843.

Swindon today

In September 1939 Mark XVI briefly became the Headquarters of Toc H which is why HQ staff Hubert Secretan, Jack Harrison, William J. Musters, and Robert Shelston can all be found listed there on the 1939 Register. However, once the ‘phoney war’ ended, HQ shipped back to London and remained there during the Blitz and for the duration.

Mark XVI’s next claim to fame came at the end of 1967 when on 30th December Hospital Radio Swindon began broadcasting from the cellar. In 1976 a fire destroyed the studio – and 3000 records – but Toc H stepped in and offered to build a studio on their land and by 1977 the studio was in full use. The Mayor of Thamesdown officially opened it in 1979, at the time Swindon Hospital Broadcasting Society purchased the studio from Toc H for £750,000.

Closed 1977. Taken over by Mental Health After Care Association

Building Status: Extant. Offices?


Hill Street, Itchen

Opened 1925

Somewhat quietly added to the lists in early 1925. I can find little fanfare for it and it didn’t survive all that long – just until 1928 when the lease expired. The forgotten Mark, it was in the Old Parsonage on Hill Street in Itchen. Attached to it was the Guild House, the recently opened HQ of the Sea Scouts dedicated to the Scouts who died in the war. It was with these and the Rover Scouts that the Mark were to do most of their work.

Interestingly a former tenant the old house had painted a little word or phrase over the doorway to each room. These read things such as “Grace and Truth”, Cheer; Sincerity; Joy; Fellowship; Peace; and Love. All very fitting for Toc H.

A rare photo of the Itchen Mark

Mark XVII stood only three miles from Mark V at Bassett and less than a mile across the river from the Talbot House Sea-going Boys’ Club in Southampton. The building has long since gone.

Closed 1928

Building Status: Demolished


34 Grainger Park Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Opened 17th April 1926

Greystoke stood at 34 Grainger Park Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It was opened on 17th April 1926 by Sir Charles ‘Tim’ Harington

Interestingly Grainger Park Road runs up to the course of Hadrian’s Wall which must have pleased Tubby with his love of history

Greystoke today

Small in comparison to many Marks, Greystoke slept eight initially. Its study was a Memorial for Marc Noble. Noble, one of the first ever Boy Scouts who, with his brother Humphrey, attended Baden-Powell’s experimental camp on Brownsea Island in 1907. Noble died 1 Jul 1917 in France and his nephew, also Marc, went on to become a leading light in the Scout movement.

In 1940 it became a Services Club and though it was still a Mark in 1949 Toc H left it soon after needing bigger premises. In the sixties St John Ambulance took it over and renamed it St John House.

Closed 1950?

Building Status: Extant. Now offices of an IT firm?


Jesmond Park West, Newcastle

Opened 1951

Mark XVIII reopened at Glendyn, Jesmond Park West

Closed 1969

Building Status: Demolished and replaced by new housing (Glendyn Close)

Mark XIX

East Street, Leeds

Opened 4th October 1929 (As a Toc H Mark)

The Red House Settlement stood very near the river and opposite some factories. It was founded in in 1913 and by 1924 the local Toc H branch were working with the Boys’ Club there. In January 1927 there was “some prospect of Toc H taking over the Red House Settlement” and in mid-1928 it came on Toc H’s books as a hostel. Then on 4th October 1929 it was opened by Lord Middleton as Mark XIX. The Archbishop later dedicated the new chapel in the old wine Cellar.

A Baron sketch of the Red House, Leeds, originally a Settlement House

In truth the Red House was always more a Hostel than a true Mark which is why it drops off the list again and why another Mark is required in Leeds (See later). There were no residents at the 1939 Register but still operating as a community building, in particular a long-running Poor man’s Lawyer Service. It closed as a Mark officially in the forties and in 1951 was requisitioned by local authorities as a day nursery.

Poor quality newspaper article from when the Settlement House opened

The Chapel had been used as an air raid shelter during the war but was reinstated as a chapel in 1949. Leeds branch were allowed to continue using the House on Monday nights for branch meetings

The chapel in the Red House

In March 1934 a room was dedicated to Leeds branch member George Ironside Brown who was killed in a car crash the previous year. The 22 year old from Newcastle was a hosteller at the Red House.

Closed 1940s

Building Status: Demolished

Aerial shot showing the roof of the Red House to give it’s location by the river

Mark XX

67 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London

Opened 1930

London’s eighth and final Mark (Chronologically) opened in Putney at in 1930. Marks were so important in those days that they were shown as such on Ordnance Survey maps! Originally called Meaburn House, it was once the home of Sir John Thwaites, the first chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works and the man credited with the development of the Embankment.

In the absence of a good picture of Putney, this shows that the Marks were important enough to be recorded on OS maps

It sustained extensive damage during WWII but survived and on the 10th June 1967 a new extension was opened by Mark Bonham-Carter. The first chairman of the Race Relations Board (and Helena’s Uncle) a he was also a cousin of Brian Hulbert Bonham-Carter who was taken prisoner in 1940 whilst working for Toc H in France

Closed 1983

Building Status: Extant. Now private housing

Some of the house domestic staff on the steps of Putney. Photo Ivan Hurst

Mark XXI

228 Osmaston Road, Derby

Opened 16th May 1931

In February 1930 The Journal announced the purchase of a House in Derby and Toc H took possession in March warning that considerable alterations will be necessary before it can be opened. Graeme House is as 228 Osmaston Road (Also known as Ivy Square) midway between the town and the engineering works where many of the Marksmen will be employed.

Closed 1969. Sold in December 1971 for £9000

Building Status: Demolished. Residential Care Home now on the site


13 North Grange Road, Headingley, Leeds

Opened 19 March 1932

As the Red House in Leeds never really made it as a Mark, in 1929 Lord Brotherton, a former MP made his fortune in the chemicals industry, offered to find and endow another house for Toc H to act as a divisional HQ. The house he found was at 13 North Grange Road, Headingley. Originally called Lyndhurst it was changed to Brotherton House when Toc H took it over.

Brotherton House, Leeds

Brotherton died in October 1930 before the house was handed to Toc H so his executors passed Tubby the title deeds on the 5th December 1931 at a Yorkshire Area Festival. The Storming Party entered on New Year’s Day 1932 and Mark XXIII was officially opened by the Princess Royal on the 19th March. The first occupant was an Australian in Yorkshire to learn wool-dyeing.

Rooms were dedicated to local regiments and battalions as was common including the Green Howards Room. However one room was dedicated to the dead of the Bentley Pit disaster which occurred on the 20th November 1931. A gas explosion caused the mine to collapse killing 45 people.

The chapel received the original cross from Gilbert Talbot’s grave which later went to All Hallows and then to Talbot House.

Closed 1969?

Building Status: Extant. It is now known as Bishop’s House


62 Rodney Street, Liverpool

Opened December 1931

The last of the true Marks – for want of a better expression – was also the most famous building having been the birth place of William Gladstone, four times British Prime Minister. The imposing property at 62 Rodney Street, Liverpool was given to Toc H by Gladstone’s son Henry Neville Gladstone, a cousin of Gilbert Talbot’s mother Lavinia. He had purchased the house from the executors of Dr Glynn (who lived there for many years) and also the freehold from the Corporation to be held in trust in perpetuity by the Diocesan Board.

Gladstone House was officially opened after some refurbishment in December 1931 with both the Mayor and Bishop of Liverpool present. Although always run as a Mark it didn’t receive its number until after the war.

Gladstone House, Liverpool

There are two Memorial Rooms of note. One is the Gladstone Room which is the room the great man was born in in 1809; the other is the Leonard Comer-Wall Room which also pays tribute to Blackie his War Horse.

On the 8 June 1917, a week after his promotion to Lieutenant, Leonard was with the RFA in action near Wytschaete when he was hit by shrapnel from a shell. His groom, Frank Wilkinson was killed by the explosion and his mount ‘Blackie’ was badly injured but survived.  Leonard was taken to a casualty clearing station behind the lines but died later that day. He is buried in Lijssenthoek cemetery. Blackie was bought out of the army by Leonard’s mother and after a period of recovery on a farm, returned to duty at Wellington Barracks in Liverpool. He finally retired to Horses’ rest in Broadgreen where he died peacefully in late 1942.

A close up of the front door

Upgraded around 1974 it was retained by Toc H but went self-catering in January 1976. It remained until the eighties then was finally old.

Closed 1983

Building Status: Extant and listed, it has been converted to flats which still bear the address Flat x, Toc H, 62 Rodney Street.

Another view of Gladstone House

Other Hostels

As well as the official Marks, there were a number of other hostels established by Toc H that were never granted Mark status. This section gives a brief account of these houses.

The Talbot House Sea-Going Boys’ Club was originally based at The Dock House, on the corner of College Street and Orchard Lane. It later moved to Brunswick Square but in 1959 an extension was built and the entrance became Bernard Street. This closed on 2nd April 1982. If you want to know more about this Ray Fabes wrote a paper which is available on the Toc H Centenary Blog here

The original hostel at Dock House
The second Talbot House, Southampton’s original entrance
And the later Bernard Street entrance

1925 Brighton Toc H ran a Boys Hostel for newspaper lads and hawkers. Situated at 60 and 61 John Street, it was just a few doors down from where they ran the local Rover Scout unit. A pub until 1918, the building became known as The John Street Toc H Boys Hostel but it only lasted until the end of March 1926 when it appeared to be taken over by the St. Vincent de Paul organisation.

Haileybury House joined the lists as an unnumbered Hostel in the summer of 1925. Based at Durham Row, Stepney, and originally run by Haileybury College it was most famous as being somewhere Clement Attlee lived and volunteered there when he was first starting out as a Barrister. He was manager from 1907-1909. Toc H took it over and Stepney group used it as their branch rooms but it was gone from the lists by July 1927.

Clement Attlee with the boys when it was a Settlement House

In January 1926 another hostel is added at 16 Rutland Street, Hulme, Manchester. Yet another old pub, – the Bleak House, closed in 1924 – it deliberately set out to attract the working class of the Hulme district. Toc H felt that the standard houses were “too pleasant, too suburban”. Retaining the name Bleak House, it was in fact something of a homeless shelter, working with the “down and outs” although former regulars of the pub used to call in for a chat and found the bar was now a comfortable club room and coffee bar. It was also popular with cabbies, tram-drivers and night worker. Beer was off the menu but they were always offered a cuppa. It was dedicated on 30th April by William Temple

In the autumn of 1927, the Newcastle Mark spawned a little brother at Gibson Street. Populated by Marksmen from Mark VIII on a rota, it was yet another former pub now turned to youth work. There was an additional hostel outside Newcastle at Walker which was aimed at ‘boy’ migrants.

And in early 1929 a hostel at 20 Poole Road Bournemouth is transferred from the Gordon Boys Association to Toc H. It was still being used by Toc H in 1936 – described as a small boarding house – and I haven’t yet discovered when they moved out.

This building became private flats then a Council Welfare Services Home, and finally a care home which has only recently been demolished and rebuilt.

Poole Road shortly before demolition

Probably the most famous was Talbot House at 42 Trinity Square, London but that is going to be featured in a forthcoming blog so I won’t go into any details here.

Tubby outside a modern 42 Trinity Square

I have also found an intriguing reference to another hostel in Manchester but have not yet found out anymore about it:

“Mum and Dad were very active in the international Christian movement Toc H and its work to improve the lives of children. In 1938 Toc H opened a hostel in Manchester called Kersher House. Dad appointed Arthur lsrael, later known as lsdale, to run it.”

So far we haven’t mentioned the League of Women Helpers’ properties and again, they need more time and space but briefly Marquise I, as it was playfully but not officially known, was more properly called New June – named for Henry Newbolt’s novel. It opened on Tower Hill on Saturday 4th October 1924, the ladies decamping from their old HQ at 7 Tower Street. It was in the top floors of 50 Great Tower Street (now covered by the Tower Place shopping centre) and included a roof garden much loved by the hostellers. Tubby’s sister Belle was one of the residents and started a lunch club for men there (Inspiring Barbara Sutherland to start one for women).

In 1927 Second June opened at 10 Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill and this now became the LWH HQ (and a Hostel). It was short-lived and closed in 1932. At about that time New June relocated to a house on the corner of Water Lane and Great Tower Street. This time Belle Clayton – who died in 1925 lent her name to one of the rooms.

And then of course there was Sheldon House, a hostel for girls but more of that anon.

We mentioned the PM Club in our blog about Stuart Greenacre. Catering – pun intended – for boys in the hospitality trade who were only free in the afternoon, by 1973 the Earls Court hostel could accommodate 150 young men. Ray Fabes wrote a paper on this project a few years back. I’ll see if I can get him to dig it out for me.

And that’s that for the UK Marks and Hostels. Look out for more articles in this series about the properties of Toc H.

Also in this series

Earlier I published a detailed history of Mark III

And did an overview of the early days for a Talbot House appeal

This year expect further property based blogs on:

  • The Toc H headquarter buildings
  • Overseas Marks
  • Marksmen and life in the Marks
  • The wartime Services Clubs and clubs with the BEF
  • The clubs with BAOR
  • Toc H on Tower Hill
  • Residential properties, training and conference centres and the rest

4 thoughts on “The Houses That Love Built

  1. I think the Swindon Mark was converted to flats rather than offices. The road in which it stands was unamed until the early 1970’s when it was given the name Charlotte Mews. I was in residence at the time. I think that Hospital Broadcasting in Swindon moved from the cellar to the garden at an earlier date than you mention.


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