By Steve Smith
Some years ago a party of friends from Poperinge Toc H came to visit London and I agreed to show them around Tower Hill. I was ably supported by John Burgess and Ken Prideaux-Brune who know more about Toc H than I can ever hope to know given that between them they have served the Movement for well over a century (Not to mention that all four of their parents were involved before them). Anyway, the long and short of it is that for the visiting Flemings, I did some research and created a short booklet to accompany that tour. Now some 15 years later I have expanded massively on the pamphlet to prepare this blog about Toc H on Tower Hill. Except this blog will, I fear, wander off the focus if Toc H and I touch on the history of the Hill itself. I won’t apologise for this; I rather think that keen historian as he was, Tubby might have done so himself. It will feature the work of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust which was driven by Tubby with the same passion he put into Toc H and look at how the Hill fared after Toc H had more or less departed bar the Mother church.
The story is told in vaguely chronological order but – like the City itself – expect to detour up tiny alley-ways and winding lanes.
First we need to understand why Tower Hill was so important to Toc H and the most obvious answer is because it was so important to Tubby. In The Pageant of Tower Hill (1933) he recalls how his father took him there when he just a nine year old boy. He had long been entranced by the precincts of the area and as an occasional errand boy for his father – a merchant in Bishopsgate – he already knew the streets of the city well. This though, was to be his first actual sighting of Tower Hill itself; a dock strike was underway and they went to witness a lunchtime meeting led by John Burns, the trade unionist. There was, he says,
“a dense and determined multitude of men, not without sticks and stones – or so a small boy thought – stood ripe for trouble.”
For Tower Hill was, and would continue to be a platform for men of words but also a rallying place for men of action. It is perhaps quite fitting then, that Toc H would be scattered across the Hill and its immediate surrounds for much of the 20th Century.
It was, of course, a most famous part of ancient London. On the border of the higher parts of the area and the flatlands leading to the east, and overlooking the river, it was a natural place for the Romans to settle – though there had been a Bronze Age settlement here before. But here the Romans built their wall around what we now call the City of London. It is the eastern end of the city that concerns us and that wall will play a prominent part in what is to come.
The Tower of London of course begins with the Norman invaders, and we shan’t bother too much with its long and bloody history. Its liberties – the area around the Tower that fell within its jurisdiction – will of course feature, and the Tower does have supporting roles in our tale but we shall see those as we go along.
Loosely, it is the area to the west and north of the Tower that features most prominently. It was of course largely unpopulated for centuries. Indeed, it was a law that nothing could be built within bowshot of the Tower so for centuries there was a swathe of open land around the outside though over the years the population swelled and the city grew more overcrowded. The hills around the Tower (Great Tower Hill to the north west and Little Tower Hill to the north east remained stubbornly clear but the northern edge crept south until only a narrow alley known as Postern Row separated warehouses, shops, and houses from the Tower ditch.
The church of All Hallows Berkyncherche enjoyed an uninterrupted vista of the Tower from its site to the west; a site on which a church had stood from at least Saxon times.
North of Great Tower Hill, the priory of the Crutched Friars was founded in 1249 and survived there until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.
Historical figures walked the streets. William Penn was born – or at least grew up – in an alley off of what is now Trinity Square in 1644 and Samuel Pepys lived nearby and wrote his diaries here. He even climbed the tower of All Hallows to watch the Great Fire in 1666, which miraculously spared this quarter of the City almost entirely. He would also have watched executions on Tower Hill, for that was what it was most infamous for.
South of All Hallows, running west to east was Great Tower Street – a road renowned for being where the Lloyds insurance giant started as a humble coffee shop. Ship captains seeking information about sea conditions congregated at a coffee house on Tower Street owned by Edward Lloyd. It is also perhaps known for the Czar’s Head where Peter the Great relaxed after learning the shipbuilding trade across the river in Deptford in the late 17th century, although I guess it had a different name then. This street certainly has a role to play in our story.
The landscape that Toc H would come to know so well really began in 1796 when the Trinity House Corporation moved their headquarters from nearby Water Lane to the present location. The following year the gardens of Trinity Square were laid out over the old Tower Hill transforming the rundown area into a beautiful garden. They were originally to have been called Tower Royal New Square according to some newspaper reports.
Trinity House lay west of Cooper’s Row (formerly Woodruff, or Woodroffe Lane) which ran north to south just inside the City wall. Development began early here and the whole block was known as Nine Gardens as there were a handful of large houses with big gardens. I have written a separate blog about this area which I’ll get to in a bit. However the landscape as Toc H knew it really evolved in the 17th century when large houses with gardens stretching back to the wall were built along Woodruff Lane and further down on the east side of what would become Trinity Square.
Later, when the warehouses began to appear alongside the Georgian Houses and the coopers moved in to Woodruff Lane, they stacked their barrels against the old wall and the road took on its new name in the middle of the 18th century.
Despite the iconic Tower, the magnificent Trinity House and the beautiful gardens in front, the wider area was reflecting the growing importance of commerce in the City and through the trade from the river. The Hill overlooked the Pool of London, and from the early 19th century, was adjacent to the main docks being built in East London.
The Port of London’s Custom and Excise service had been established in the parish of All Hallows as far back as Chaucer’s day and Custom House still sits by the river. It was no surprise then that acres of bonded warehouses and wine vaults should be built in the vicinity. Wine and spirits accounted for the majority of goods but tea was plentiful as were more exotic goods such as ivory and pearl. All these play a part in our story.
The railways first arrived in the area when the London and Blackwall line cut through the north of the Hill in 1841, the line bringing commuters in from Essex to Minories (and eventually Fenchurch Street) and shipping goods out from the docks.
Now we start to get to some specifics in our story. In 1864 George Myers, a speculative builder, raised a huge warehouse, at the eastern end of All Hallows. Commonly known as the Mazawattee Warehouse, I’ll tell its story later. Part of it remains today as the underground vaults that were built beneath it are now a shopping precinct.
And whilst we are peeking below the surface, the line of the Metropolitan Railway Inner Circle underground line carves through Trinity Square. The story of the underground railway’s appearance in the area is relevant as it very much shapes and affects the area in which Toc H settled. The first section of the Metropolitan line opened in 1863 and it was recommended to the government that it be extended to form a circular route around London. This included an extension from the east down as far as Trinity Square. A separate company would extend it westwards from there. Without going into all the political details, the rivalries and lack of funding turned the whole thing into a bit of mess but in 1882 a cutting was dug from Aldgate to Trinity Square in which the line was laid before being covered again. This meant that several properties in The Crescent were demolished. The tunnel was left open between Trinity Place and Trinity Square and here – in an incredible 60 hours – a new station was built. Originally recorded in the plans as Trinity Square station, by the time it opened on 25th September 1982, it was known as Tower of London station. Entirely made of wood, the platforms were accessed from a low building on the corner of Trinity Square and Trinity Place.
It was at this cutting where the body of Cadogan West was found in Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holme’s story The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, as Tubby pointed out on at least one occasion
“The body was found at six on Tuesday morning. It was lying wide of the metals upon the left hand of the track as one goes eastward, at a point close to the station, where the line emerges from the tunnel in which it runs.”
A contemporaneous plan to run a railway branch line off to Billingsgate market and so remove the railway vans from the streets never came off.
Meanwhile the line was coming in from the west, from Mansion House. Great Tower Street was widened and just west of All Hallows a new fork was created running toward Trinity Square north of All Hallows. This was to allow the railway to be inserted before being covered as a new street. Opened in August 1884 and keeping the name Great Tower Street for a while, it would be renamed Byward Street by 1907.
The creation of Byward street was an important step in the post-Great Fire dream of a broad road stretching from St Paul’s eastward to the Tower and beyond. Thus in September 1886, shortly after Byward Street opened, Postern Row was demolished leaving a broader through road across the north of the Tower. Now the dividing line between commerce and crown was now a row of properties built in second half of the 19th century along the northern edge of what used to be George Street and before that George’s Yard. This row of properties included a number which were, for several years, used as a pearl, mica, and ivory warehouse by Victor Myers, who was nothing to do with the Myers who built the warehouse by All Hallows. These buildings will soon play a role in our story.
This thoroughfare became ever more important with the opening of Tower Bridge on 30th June 1894.
Meanwhile, back at the underground, and Trinity Square was cut open to lay the tunnels. The restoration of Trinity Square is described in Lizzie Alldridge’s 1882 novel The Tower Gardens. A ventilation shaft was installed in the gardens where it remains to this day.
A new station – by a rival railway company – was opened at Mark Lane, just opposite All Hallows. For one short week both stations operated simultaneously but there simply wasn’t the traffic to sustain both. Mark Lane, being a more substantial building and also marginally nearer the City offices won out and Tower of London Station closed in October 1884. The wooden station building remained in situ for many years though as we shall see.
In 1911 the Metropolitan District railway company rebuilt Mark Lane station. Previously a small, low building on the corner of Mark Lane, it was replaced by the large office building – designed by architect Delissa Joseph – that remains to this day with the station (now disused) incorporated into the building. At the same time a small building was erected to cover the exit outside All Hallows. Although an ugly little building, Toc H would utilise it briefly in 1937 (See 18 Byward Street). Also in 1911 George Street was renamed Tower Hill – which really confuses things!
Maybe it’s time for a couple of maps
Now as we approach the time period that really concerns us, you’ll notice on the second map a vast open space just left of centre. Here used to lie a labyrinth of old houses and warehouses including the Clergy House of All Hallows (See below). In 1912 these buildings were torn down to make way for a headquarters for a new organisation. The Port of London Authority was established in 1909 to govern the Port of London. The site was chosen partly because the PLA inherited an old East India Company warehouse in Crutched Friars. The stately Edwin Cooper designed HQ was opened by David Lloyd George, in one of his last acts as Prime Minister, on the 17th October 1922. Days later a trickle of Toc H folk arrived on the Hill. Tubby was about to take over the reins at All Hallows, which lacked a true vicarage – and so he and a few Toc H folks found a vacant flat at the easterly end of Great Tower Street.
Toc H Arrive
In July 1922, the Archbishop of Canterbury – Randall Davidson – summoned Tubby to Lambeth Palace. Davidson was prone in bed with a flare up of lumbago and had clearly been thinking about Toc H. He wanted to know how he could help Tubby with his mission and then told him that earlier that day he had been to Tower Hill to give a blessing to the Port of London Authority’s new building. (Actually the PLA building didn’t open until October. County Hall opened 17 Jul 1922 and the Archbishop said a prayer but it seems strange that he would he have gone near Tower Hill on his way back to Lambeth Palace which is virtually next door to County Hall). Anyway, whilst he was on the Hill he called in on All Hallows which he found neglected and almost in disuse. Tubby’s predecessor Charles Lambert had been appointed Archdeacon of Hampstead in late 1920 although still Rector of All Hallows but he lived at the Vicarage in Fitzroy Square and seemed to only be Rector of AH in name. On 5th March some bell-ringers from Ealing rang the bells at AH and it was the first time they had been rung that year! He broached the subject of Tubby taking on the Church and made an official nomination in a letter to Tubby dated 11th August. It was hoped that Tubby would focus on the ordination of young priests and make it a training centre for the clergy, continuing what he had begun at Knutsford but also the mission of All Hallows College in the late 19th century. .
At first Tubby was dead set against the appointment as he felt it would interfere with his plans for Toc H but on a retreat he met with Peter Monie – a friend of his brother Hugh in the Indian Civil Service home on leave – and persuaded him to retire early and become the Honorary Administrator of Toc H. This freed Tubby from a massive role and the Central Executive happily supported the move. In late August Tubby accepted his nomination as vicar of All Hallows-by-the-Tower. To sweeten the deal Davidson offered All Hallows as the Guild Church of the fledgling movement. Toc H were coming to Tower Hill.
50 Great Tower Street (Nov 1922-1932)
“In November 1922 Tubby and a team of members (including the Honorary Secretary of the LWH) took up their residence on Tower Hill. A flat at the top of No. 50 Great Tower Street had been found, and there some few folks lived, presided over by Miss Belle Clayton, the Vicar’s sister.”The Curious History of the Toc H Women’s Association – ABS MacFie
50 Great Tower Street stood right on the corner of that road and Tower Hill (The Tower Dock end). The ground floor had been a pub -the Old Kings Head – until at least 1915. The General Steam Navigation Company also had offices there and the upper floors were occupied by the Public Ledger who had both offices and their press there. Already the longest running commercial journal in London then, it is still running today focussing on business and the price of commodities. It was owned at the time by the printers Skipper and East who were based next door. For the Toc H folk in the flat at the top, there were ninety steps to ascend or descend each time they came in or out but at least they benefitted from a roof garden.
So the first guests kept in order by Tubby’s sister Belle included Tubby himself, and Alison Macfie now establishing the League of Women Helpers. It would soon become central to the flourishing LWH. All Hallows Curates George Moore and Tom Savage (Moore appears frequently in this text and I recently dedicated a blog to him) were also accommodated there in its first days. The flat was also used to put up visiting padres and many others. All this in rooms in which the proverbial cat could barely be swung. They named it New June after a great house of that name that stood nearby (and was written about in Henry Newbolt’s 1909 novel, set in the area including a central character visiting All Hallows).
Although Tubby was an early resident at 50 after his appointment mostly he flitted between Marks I, II & III but eventually moved into the Porch Room at All Hallows. Then he transferred his accommodation to 7 Tower Hill and finally 42 Trinity Square in 1930.
In June 1923 the Journal reported that on the skyline was “a substantial tenement for the Chaplain’s college in the upper regions of a public house over against All Hallows where the Porch Room and a series of sardine boxes (Interpreter’s House, 7 Tower Hill) are proving daily, and nightly, inadequate for the feast of reason and the flow of soul as the old church gathers life”.
Of course, it was not just accommodation for Toc H and All Hallows. A men-only lunch club was started at No. 50 by Belle inspiring Barbara Sutherland to set up a tea and bun lunch for ladies at No. 7 (See below) which later moved to No. 50.
In May 1924 The Times reported a City Girls’ Lunch Club and Rest Room at 7 Tower Hill; the Men’s Lunch Club, 4th floor, 50 Great Tower Street; and the Scouts’ Lunch Club, 2nd floor, 50 Great Tower Street
In 1924 it was announced that it was to be transformed into a hostel. The hostel at New June opened 4th October 1924 with a house-warming on 4th November. The hostel slept nine normally. It was affectionately if not officially known as Marquise I. In between the opening and the house-warming – on 15th October – the London EC branch of the LWH met at New June for the first time.
The LWH HQ moved out of New June in February 1927 when the Movement took a place in Notting Hill (The short-lived Second June) and thence to Chandos House in Palmer Street, Westminster before going back to the Hill at 28 Great Tower Street (See below).
So some Toc H pioneers were already settled on the Hill when, at 6pm on the night of 15th December 1922 – three days after Tubby’s 37th birthday – a ceremony began in All Hallows that would firmly establish Tubby Clayton at the place he so loved. A group processed from the West Vestry led by a member of Toc H bearing the cross and followed by the choir, the Clergy (including the Bishops of Winchester and Pretoria: Edward and Neville Talbot respectively), and several Toc H Padres. Then came Tubby himself followed by the Archdeacon of London, the Bishop’s Chaplain, and the Bishop of London (Arthur Winnington-Ingram). There were also present many dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of London and the Burgomasters of Poperinge and Ieper, both also over for the Toc H Birthday celebrations. Tubby was duly installed as Vicar of All Hallows. After this service there was a Family Thanksgiving Service during which the Prince of Wales slipped unobtrusively into the church. Tubby later showed him the place on John Croke’s tomb where the lamp the Prince was gifting to the Movement would sit.
All Hallows (1922-now)
Now as we have heard, All Hallows lacked a proper vicarage when Tubby arrived. It had for many years had a Clergy House at 7 & 8 Trinity Square, in the north east corner overlooking the place in the gardens where the executions once took place. A Reverend Boyd Carpenter also lived at no 9. These properties though, and many more around them, were all swept away in 1912 to prepare for the coming of the new PLA building. All Hallows then lacked a true vicarage or clergy house of any kind for some years though a lease had been obtained on 15 Fitzroy Square by 1914 but this was a good distance from the parish. In fact before he was even installed as vicar, Tubby had sold the tail of the lease of 15 Fitzroy Square on to Toc H who opened Mark VII here. 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).
And what of All Hallows itself? Well the church has a long and most interesting history which I won’t recount in full here but recommend you read up about it sometime. However, since we will be talking a lot about archaeology in this blog, let me mention a few things that must have made Tubby’s heart race.
Several excavations took place from 1928-1933 during work to underpin the nave and amongst the discoveries were part of a Roman tesserae pavement beneath the tower and three medieval walls under the chancel. A Saxon arch and a wheel-head cross were discovered when the church was badly damaged during the Blitz and in the subsequent repair work afterwards.
However, we have talked a lot about buildings and it’s time to start looking at the work that went on in and around them. And like most things in Toc H, we’ll start with Tubby.
Like most City churches, All Hallows didn’t have a large local congregation to fill it at the weekends though it was filled with city workers during the week especially at lunch time. Thus the weekend – Sunday in particular – became a day when Toc H members would head for their Guild church.
Compared to most parishes there were few resident parishioners. Most who lived in the area were caretakers of the various buildings and warehouse, who lived on the premises with their families. Later Toc H residents would bolster their numbers as we shall see. However, during the week there was no shortage of ‘temporary’ parishioners. Beginning with the early morning market workers (Billingsgate and Spitalfields in particular); then the street cleaners, carmen, traders, and policemen. Next came the city workers coming in from their suburban homes to the banks and shipping agencies. Then as the day progressed, the sightseers and tourists joined the proselytisers and their audience on the Hill. Tubby had no shortage of people to see. These few extracts from Harcourt’s biography paint a very vivid picture.
those who were fortunate enough to be apprenticed to the staff of All Hallows received each afternoon that Tubby was in residence a lesson in parochialia that was masterly. Only one hundred and eighty-three people lived in the quarter of a square mile of the City which comprised All Hallows parish, but some twenty thousand worked in it every day of the week and it was upon these that he determined to concentrate. They lived, he said, in dormitory suburbs and arrived home too late at night for the local parson to get to know them; it was therefore the duty of the clergy of All Hallows to visit the offices regularly, but two rules had to be observed. He, the priest or parish visitor, must never ask for money and he must never stay when a man was obviously busy.
The first thing they noticed about the Vicar was that he worked as hard and twice as long as any of them. Draymen carting barrels offish to the markets through the dampness of early winter mornings would see his ample frame disappearing into All Hallows and on their way back, about nine o’clock, he would hail them and talk about the kids, the football prospects, or even fish if they liked it that way. It was not long before Eastcheap conferred its most coveted accolade “he’s a decent bloke,” which, after all, was not so far removed from the opinion of the Salient.
Between 7 and 8 a.m. he would make his way to the church, rarely omitting the ritual of feeding sugar to the cart horses he passed in Trinity Square. Leaving the church at about nine-fifteen he would distribute more sugar and, heedless of breakfast, chat cheerfully with drivers and fish porters from whom he picked up an enormous amount of useful information about the East End and its habits. After a hurried cup of tea came the morning’s correspondence which sometimes ran into hundreds of letters, all of which had to be read and, in many cases, answered. Then came luncheon with a half a dozen assorted men to be shown a new scheme or helped to run an old one; the guests having departed, office visiting began. The technique was simple. The visitor took a bundle of pamphlets, probably describing the lunch-time activities of the old church, and dived into an office, a procedure, many a young aide discovered, requiring a high degree of fearlessness. Visiting ended by 5 p.m., when the City emptied, and Tubby met with his curates and aides for Evensong at 5.40 p.m. to be followed by the signing of letters before the secretaries left and supper at six-thirty. This over he seldom noticed what he ate or remembered it afterwards there would be time for a talk with one of his clergy or staff, and then dictation for four or five hours to his night secretary.
Melville Harcourt – The Impudent Dreamer
Ron Taylor’s early working life was spent around Billingsgate retrieving empty fish boxes for various firms. At one stage just after the Second World War he worked for Charlie Murphy whose stand was right outside All Hallows. Whilst working here Ron, or Fingers as he was known, became friendly with Tubby. It started on Tubby’s daily walk between his flat and the church with Chippie tucked under his arm. He would sometimes stop at Charlie Murphy’s stand and talk to Ron, sometimes pressing sweets or an apple into his hand. He also gave the young lad permission to stand in the porch when it was raining – much to the Verger’s chagrin apparently.
Fingers made model boats for a hobby and Tubby once asked him to make one to pair up with one he had over the fireplace in his flat – a rare survivor of the collection from All Hallows destroyed during the war. Fingers arrived at a prearranged time, dressed in his motorcycle clothes, to measure the existing model and was bustled by Tubby into the room. Here he was met with a roomful of city business men drinking coffee and reading newspapers. Tubby insisted on introducing Fingers to each and every one. Fingers, somewhat embarrassed, declined coffee, measured the boat and fled.
A few words need to be spoken about some of Tubby’s co-conspirators at All Hallows though many will be covered in detail in the Tower Hill People blog which I will publish shortly.
It was one of Tubby’s intentions to make All Hallows a training ground for clergy so he took on as many Curates as he could; he had after all been a Curate at Portsea under Garbett with a plethora of Curates. Tubby’s first were Ronnie Royle and Ernest Raymond (From Brighton Feb/March 1923 and already known for his novel Tell England) then George Moore (when ordained in 1923) and Tom Savage. Although I have already written about Moore, the others you will have to wait until another underway project – a biographical catalogue of Tubby’s aide de camps – is completed. This is because many of the curates were also enrolled for a spell as Tubby’s ADCs.
Clergy aside, Tubby benefitted gratefully from the long service of verger Charles Misselbrook. He was eventually succeeded by Charles Tisshaw and then by Sid Higbee, who both feature again further in this blog. Misselbrook also acted as Parish Clerk and so did Aunt Bess, who….well read about Aunt Bess in the Tower Hill People blog. Churchwardens would later include Lancelot Prideaux-Brune and Ion Hamilton Benn.
So Tubby would remain as Vicar here until 1962 and live on the Hill until his death in 1972 but we are getting way ahead of ourselves here. There is still one more building from the very earliest of days on the Hill that we have yet to cover.
7 Tower Hill (Nov 1923-Dec 1940?)
We have seen already that Tubby’s ministry was not going to be an ordinary one. What he really wanted was a House of Charity on the Hill and No 7 would become his first attempt to achieve this.
Next door (round the corner) to 50 Great Tower Street and wedged between two printing houses – Skipper and East (who printed money) and The Public Ledger magazine (At 50) – the property must already have been in the hands of the church as Toc H took over from the Revd Ernest Raymond and his wife. Raymond was Tubby’s first curate at All Hallows but after leaving no. 7 he also left the church and became a well-known novelist.
No. 7 faced the Tower of London and had an unrivalled view from its many and wide windows. Tubby called it The Interpreter’s House as it was the house that Goodwill direct Christian to in the Pilgrim’s Progress – one of Tubby’s best loved books. Instead it would become – as well as ad hoc accommodation for All Hallows’ curates and Toc H migrants – the HQ of the LWH.
“It had one room on each floor connected by a rather steep stair. Our portion consisted of (1) the use of a kitchen on the first floor; (2) a big room on the second floor as a kind of a club room, with a corner partitioned off for a guest bedroom; (3) the use of a bathroom on the fourth floor. The General Secretary took a room at the top of the house and moved in from no. 50 Great Tower Street”The Curious History of The Toc H Women’s Association – A.B.S. MacFie
A women’s lunch club started here by Barbara Sutherland inspired by Isobel’s lunch club for men at New June.
The original caretaker was an Irishman by the name of Connor. His favoured phrase was “If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here”. He also called Tubby ‘His Riverance’. When he died, he was replaced by Emily Jane Ambler, or Matron who looked after things until Tubby moved across the square to 42 in 1930. She was devoted to him. There was also Mrs Harrison, cleaner at All-Hallows, “a lady well on in the winter of her life”, who helped at No. 7.
Some floors on the top of no. 50 fell vacant and New June was enlarged so in October 1924, having taken over the top two floors at no. 50, no. 7 was abandoned by the LWH and on Saturday 4th October – assisted by Scouts and Guides – everything in it was walked down 50 steps, round the corner and up 92 steps to the expanded New June. No. 7 remained in Tubby’s hands until the war and of those who lived there Alison Macfie and Michael Coleman are the most memorable. The ubiquitous George Moore also resided here.
In 1934 the Lunch Club returned briefly to no. 7 whilst other moves were taking place.
I should also mention Tower Hill group of Toc H which formed around 1925. Originally the secretary was A E E Shields and it’s address given as 7 Tower Hill. By 1927 Colin Cuttell had assumed the post. They were endowed The Archbishop Davidson Lamp in September 1932 by the Revd Harry Ellison and Mrs Ellison. It was dedicated In memory of Randall Thomas, Lord Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, trusted friend of Toc H. 25.5.1930 and first lit at the Birthday Festival in Birmingham Town Hall by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales on the 3rd December 1932. The branch survived for many years and will crop up again in our story.
42 Trinity Square (Talbot House) 1929-1982
So Tubby’s search for a House of Charity on the Hill continued – a permanent vicarage would also have been nice. And in 1928 another part of Tubby’s dream came to life thanks to Charlotte Tetley.
Charlotte Tetley was the second wife of Henry Greenwood Tetley, the millionaire Yorkshire industrialist who was Chairman of Courtaulds (The major manmade fabric manufacturers). From a working class background Charlotte met Tetley when she was nursing his sick first wife. They married in 1917. He was a peculiar man in that he appeared to have no outside interests, took no part in public life, and little of his private life was known, certainly not during his lifetime. Interestingly his weekend house supervisor in Surrey was Elsie Knocker, who with Mairi Chisolm, was one of the two most famous women on the Western Front (See here for why that was). When he died in 1921 he received no obituary in The Times. He made few philanthropic gestures whilst living though he did leave land in Henley on Thames to the Officer’s Association to build a home for disabled officers, and one fifth of the residue of his property was left to such patriotic purposes or objects and such charitable institutions or charitable objects in the British Empire as his trustees might select absolutely. Charlotte Tetley had just become a very wealthy woman.
As early as 1923 Charlotte donated furniture and fittings to the LWH HQ at no. 7 Tower Hill.
The family contributed more than just money to Tubby’s cause though. Her daughter Constance was involved in the LWH early on and in 1926 Constance would marry Lancelot Prideaux-Brune and together they would contribute much to Toc H, not least a future Director. I have written extensively about the Prideaux-Brunes here.
Henry’s son Geoffrey Tetley became Tubby’s ADC in 1925; Leonard Tetley, another son, was Joint Hon. Secretary of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust
It was in October 1926 when Charlotte made a donation of £20,000 to support All Hallows padres primarily but also to extend the aims of Toc H. This led to a Trust – the Toc H and All Hallows Trust – being established (See below).
Then in December 1928 the newspapers reported that “A City freehold withdrawn at £13,000, has been sold by Mr J. Trevor” (Auctioneers of Coleman Street). The purchaser was the Trust and the city freehold was 42 Trinity Square. It was provided as a residence for the clergy of All Hallows and for various other charitable purposes although Tubby didn’t move in until 1930.
So where was this house that Charlotte bought? Number 42 was on Trinity Square in a small detached part of All Hallows parish. It was the eastern edge of the square laid out after Trinity House was built in 1796 and since the house dates from around 1780, it is likely they were in Coopers Row at first. As we noted earlier Coopers Row (Sometimes Cowper’s Row) was called Woodruffe, Woodroff, or even Woedrove Lane until the first half of the 18th century when the coopers moved into the area. It runs parallel with the City Wall (on the inside) and emerges on to Great Tower Hill. The entire block on which no. 42 stands was once known as Nine Gardens because, well, there were nine houses with long gardens stretching back to the wall.
“Nine gardens were first made, then fenced, then walled. Houses sprang up on the garden sites, in defiance of the old City law that nothing must be built within sixteen feet of the Town Wall. This wall, remaining intact, was stifled in a series of small houses periodically re-erected and enlarged; until in 1818 a revealing fire swept them away, exposing to the astonished view of passers-by the Town Wall in its old integrity.”The Pageant of Tower Hill (1934)
The southern plot in the All Hallows area was recorded in 1803 as being occupied by the workhouse of the parish of All Hallows Barking. This appears to have been a relatively small institution and would have closed down on the formation of the City of London Poor Law Union in 1837
To be honest, the development of this area has fascinated me; so much so I have turned my research into a separate article which you can read here (It opens in a new tab). It doesn’t much to do with Toc H but for anyone interested in the development of the area around Talbot House (42 Trinity Square) then please go have a look. There are some great photos of the area too. Otherwise, keep reading for the continuing Toc H on Tower Hill story.
Let us turn our attention to the House that Charlotte Tetley endowed. It did, after all, become the centre of all things Toc H on Tower Hill, and achieved Tubby’s dream of having a House of Charity in this historic quarter of the City.
When Charlotte Tetley purchased 42 it was as much for All Hallows as it was for Toc H, perhaps more so. It was her wish to provide accommodation for the curates and others; to create a Parish House. To be honest Tubby probably hijacked her good intention slightly for Toc H purposes though it managed serve both church and movement well.
As we have seen, the first examples of Service we saw on the Hill came with the lunch clubs run by the LWH at 50 Great Tower Street and the early projects at the Interpreter’s House (7 Tower Hill). Then in 1924 Tubby turned the Vestry of All Hallows into a social club and at the same time called for condemned city churches – of which there were several – to be used as social rest houses for City Workers especially young lads.
Tubby’s house on the Hill was always meant to be more than just another Mark. The Marks were, at the end of the day, glorified hostels. This house was to be closer to the original model than ever. A house of charity; a welfare house for the workers on the hill.
One early plan was to make social work amongst the troops stationed in the Tower but in time it became a centre for workers particularly from the City and for overseas members.
So what of the building itself. Well it’s all a bit confusing as what we know as 42 Trinity Square is now numbered 43 and the new building out the back – that replaced the old warehouse in the eighties, is now 42 or Trinity Court.
42 fronted Trinity Square and was built around 1780, just before Trinity House was built and the gardens developed. It is the last house numbered in Trinity Square as its neighbour to the north is 8 Cooper’s Row though it is highly likely that it was originally part of Cooper’s Row – or possibly Great Tower Hill – though not for very long. Richard Horwood’s plan – which survey the area c.1795-1798 – clearly shows it as 42 Trinity Square. It is the most northerly house of a detached part of All Hallows parish; 8 Cooper’s Row, its northern neighbour, lies in the parish of St Olave Hart Street whilst a few doors south began St Botolph without Aldgate, though All Hallows parish has more recently been extended to cover that area. The city wards break here too with 42 being in Tower Ward and 8 Cooper’s Row being in Aldgate. More pertinently, 42 is these days in the borough of Tower Hamlets along with the Tower itself whilst 8 Cooper’s Row remains in the City. The boundary changes over the years have been complex!
In terms of occupants we can track 42 from the 1861 census onwards.
In 1861 it appears to be in the hands of the Hughingtons whose head, John, was a wine merchant. A decade later and the Fardells who own a removals and transport business – quite possibly with contracts for the London and Blackwall railway company whose station, depot and offices are close by– live at 42.
It seems that even then, other businesses may have been using parts of the buildings – the warehouse – as a vanilla company, a tea merchant, and several wine merchants all give 42 Trinity Square as their address at various times.
A decade later and it is back in the hands of a drinks merchant with the head off the household being George Martin Brice, a spirit warehouseman with a warehouse on Postern Row. As was George Clark whose family lived there in 1891
1901 saw a slight change when 42 was the home of Inspector Charles Moody of the City of London police Moody was still there in 1911 though now retired. At this time his wife and daughter are listed as a housekeepers for the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. This railway company had taken over the London and Blackwall railway – that ran into Fenchurch Street – and occupied 41 Trinity Square as their headquarters from at least 1903. This would only last until 1912 when they would be swallowed up by another company in the never ending trail of railway takeovers and mergers. By 1921 however, 42 had been broken up into smaller offices. In point of fact, when Toc H were given the freehold in trust in 1929, all the floors above were occupied by other companies with varying leases expiring 1930-1932.
Previous and existing occupants were mostly wine and tea companies spread amongst many small offices on all floors. However one interesting leaseholder was Cole Transport, a removals firm. Captain Awdry Valentine Cole styled himself as a ship-owner and transport contractor yet his newspaper adverts screamed “Half Price Removals”, suggesting something far less glamorous. In fact Cole was – at best – a very poor business man or – more likely – a con man – getting investors to put money into a business that was going downhill fast. Bankruptcy followed as did Cole’s escape to Cannes and the story was a scandal in the newspapers of the time – at pretty much the same time Toc H were moving into the building where it all happened!
The front house was built around 1780 but the rear building was added later and the courtyard between the two was roofed over before Toc H’s time.
When Toc H moved in it still had the original ironwork, staircases and plasterwork but broken into offices as it was, it wasn’t in its original grand state. The front door opened on to the pavement and a flight of steps beside it led down to the cellar where a skittle alley was installed in early 1930. To the right of the front door was a large doorway which led past the Counting House to the warehouse or garage which had been built out the back. The warehouse, with its timbered roof, was dilapidated and only the Counting House and cellars were available to use immediately. At the far end of the warehouse was part of the Roman wall, a great feature that Tubby was immensely happy about. Another historical artefact that stood in one corner was the barrel that had served as the Crow’s Nest of The Quest, Shackleton’s ill-fated ship. It was bought by Toc H for £3 and now used as a giant collection bucket
.The buildings had different layouts but many of the people who helped with this blog remember how it was in the 60s and 70s. The warden’s office was now in the old counting house. Above the office the rooms were used as bedrooms with two or three beds in each. There were further bedrooms in the back building overlooking The Crescent. The hall between the two buildings was dark and low-ceilinged and used for the lunch club.
Back to 42 itself. On the first floor, the room alongside the kitchen, was Tubby’s dining room. This was known as the Penn Room. A notice informed you that “in this room, or near it, William Penn was born”. At the window end a door led on to the flat roof of the lunch club , which was a kind of roof garden with a few tubs of flowers. At the other end was a door into 6 The Crescent (I write about the Crescent a little later). The large room where the Trust meetings used to be held and front room next to it were offices for Toc H in London during the 50s and 60s. I’m not sure what they were used for later. The rooms above first floor level were bedrooms for hostellers.
Toc H member and volunteer David Gibson described in Point 3 in 1981
“A maze of dark, twisted corridors snaking their way between subterranean offices, Victorian studies, a roof garden, and even a genuine Roman Wall”
Ken Prideaux-Brune recalls
“The upper floors were flats. The Warden had a flat there. Miss Coulson (known as Couly) Tubby’s night secretary (she took dictation from around 8pm to midnight) had a flat there. Sir Alexander Giles (my predecessor as director of Toc H) and his wife had the top flat during his time with Toc H. In the 1950s a deputy vicar of All Hallows, ‘Barnacle’ Brown (I’ve no idea where he got that nickname) had one of the flats and in, I guess, the early 70s another priest on the staff of All Hallows, whose name I’m afraid escapes me, lived there. At another point one of the flats was occupied by Mrs Culwick, the parish secretary of All Hallows. She was not particularly tall but was quite broad and stately and was known to us, rather irreverently, as HMS Culwick. I believe also that the retired Bishop of Korea (I think his name was John Daly*) who filled in during the interregnum between Tubby’s retirement and Colin Cuttell’s arrival, lived in one of the flats.”
*It was John Daly, who was formerly a curate at All Hallows and one of Tubby’s ADCs
Meanwhile back in 1930 it was rechristened Talbot House (though Charles Spon, in his booklet about Tower Hill, says it was also known as Everyman’s House) it was generally referred to as 42 or number 42 to minimise confusion with the original Talbot House.
Early plans were to use the downstairs during the day for Toc H work and work with Scouts, Guides and Troops from the Tower in the evening. The Lunch Club transferred to Counting House – a small kitchen was installed. The warehouse was to be used as gym and drill hall and also for concerts; Fortnightly concerts were held from the outset. Every Thursday there was a lunch-hour talk. By late 1929 Toc H Overseas Commission occupied a room on first floor and in December 1930 Tubby finally moved in. All Hallows had an official vicarage once again.
The Tate and Lyle Room in 41 connected by doors to 42. This was a splendid room, used for South East Regional Councils, Committees, and Project Volunteers Socials etc. Training Days etc.
“About half-way along the south side of the lunch club was a door leading to a large square room at the back of 41. This was the Tate & Lyle Room. It was basically a passageway between the two buildings but it was where Trust meetings were held when I first joined. I’m not sure what the connection with Tate & Lyle was but Tony Tate chaired the Trust when I joined. Presumably. they had made a significant donation, perhaps towards the building of the lunch club and the Plumer Wing”.
The kitchen for the lunch club and the hostel was the ground floor of number 6. In the basement was the Roman Wall Room, so called because one wall of the room was the Roman wall of London (now visible in the open air). Toc H members who wished to eat at the lunch club could eat down there – there was somebody there to take your order and a dumb-waiter to convey the food down to you. In the evening the Roman Wall room was the hostel television room.
On Ascension Day on May 9th 1929 the house was officially opened. Sir Ion Hamilton Benn, Vice President of Toc H and recently elected as Chairman of the Port of London Authority, his new office in the grand Trinity Square headquarters more or less overlooking Talbot House, made the opening speech.
As this House of Charity at 42 Trinity Square got up and running the world was suffering a great depression. It was no less worse around the Hill where many dockers had lost their jobs. A tea bar was set up in the skittle alley primarily for the unemployed and was complemented by a coffee stand on Dingley Dell (See below). Some 40 men a day were given vouchers that could be exchanged for a meal at the stand. Toc H also paid for the men to lodge at Downing’s hostel rather than be forced into the workhouse.
It would be the lunch club that became the first established service at 42; in fact the need was seen as so great it was up and running several weeks before the house officially opened. The concept had been tried and tested by the LWH and now they had a large enough space in the Counting House to expand it. It’s true that it was aimed at City workers rather than the unemployed but Toc H saw a great need. Remember this was long before Pret A Manger and supermarkets on every corner; there weren’t even Luncheon Vouchers yet. So Toc H could provide a solid meal for the young lads and ladies working in the City at a very reasonable price. Mus and Mrs Mus (William J. Musters – see here for his story) undertook to manage it at the outset and get it organised. Ken Matthews (See below) assisted. It was so successful that after just eight months they had to rehouse it in the garage.
Other early helpers included Professor Richard Kaikushru Sorabji, a well-known Indian born philosopher, who took charge of the gymnasium and early fitness schemes. Harry Ellison and his team of Commissioners were set to move the Overseas Commission on to the first floor as soon as the short term tenants could be removed. The house would be the first port of call for overseas Toc H members visiting the UK for many years.
Of course, it was also intended to be a hostel like the Marks. Tubby was set to move in on the top floor as soon as possible as were Arthur and Susan Pettifer- the Gen and his wife. The General was already established as handyman, or Clerk of the Works as Tubby designated him. His story can be found here.
This was the first time All Hallows had had a true vicarage since Great Tower Street was widened in 1864 and the College in Trinity Square was pulled down to make way for the PLA building in 1911. Thus by 1935 residents of the bedrooms – the upper floors all now in Toc H’s hands – included Tubby, Geoffrey Batchelar, George Moore, Tom Savage, and Harry Chappell.
Batchelar became Provost of Talbot House though quite what his role entailed is not clear. See here for Batchelar’s story in a previous blog.
The honour of the first warden though went to Kenneth Matthews who was on the staff at All Hallows and was also described as Tubby’s secretary. In the early days he worked with Professor Sorabji and Colonel Ronald Campbell to get the gymnasium running (Campbell was a physical education proponent shortly to be appointed Director of Physical Education at Edinburgh University). Matthews left after a few months to tour Canada, Australia and New Zealand and later became Chaplain and Welfare Officer to an oil tanker fleet.
During the war William A. Goff took over as warden and was assisted ably by Couly. We look at the war on Tower Hill a little later.
“I remember a wonderful old boy called Sid Thresher, who came with us on one of the very early projects at Talbot House and shared his memories of the house in WW1. He had entertained young German lads every summer right up to August 1939, when he had to Luftwaffe pilots staying with him. Apparently the German embassy rang him up and said ‘There’s about to be a war. Can we have our pilots back, please’.”Kenneth Prideaux-Brune
Key characters over the the next few years included the post war warden Group Captain George Oliver, Henry Bowen Smith (often drove for Tubby), Fred Tuckett (Tubby’s batman) and the last warden, the near legendary Peter East who took over that role in 1967, after a spell for Toc H in Germany. Peter later started the East End’s first Asian Youth Club in a hut at the back of Talbot House with Ashok Basudev. I hope to cover Peter’s career and legacy more thoroughly next spring to coincide with the centenary of his birth. Some of the other characters appear in the Tower Hill People blog.
During the Summer, so many Winant Volunteers came and went while passing though London.
Another much loved character was Flo Russell, the wife of a serving soldier stationed at the Tower. Flo was originally from Devon and cooked for the hostel residents.
Speaking of food as we were, Tubby’s own meals were quite a thing right from the early days of 1930. The kitchen produced meals for Tubby’s dining room on the first floor on 42. Tubby was not apparently much bothered by food but having guests was important to him as a way of finding out about life. There were usually around eight guests for lunch and supper and they could include city men, Toc H members, or Billingsgate porters. Often Tubby would just collar someone as he walked across Trinity Square from All Hallows and persuade them to join him for a meal.
“After I had served him at a mid-week Eucharist, Tubby would often invite me back for breakfast……I remember one occasion where I sat next to a recently-retired governor-general of Australia; on my other side was the local postman, who had just called to deliver the mail and had been asked by the vicar to sit down for a cup of tea”Kenneth Jarvis – Memoirs of a Celibate Priest
There was much rebuilding work post-war as though not destroyed, 42 had suffered a lot of damage. At some point Tubby moved across into 41 and the flat he would remain in for the rest of his life. In August 1961 planning permission was applied for to demolish the back part of the complex – the old four storey warehouse – and replace it with a purpose built two storey Scout Hut. Ultimately this didn’t happen.
Whatever else was going on, 42 remained a hostel at heart. Frank Gomez was a resident there from Pakistan. He said:
“..what is important to me as a foreigner is that the house offers the chance to make friends easily and gives one a sense of belonging.”
Martin Rivett lived there for a year in 1981 when Peter East was warden. Flo the cook was the wife of a Beefeater. The bathroom was two floors up from Martin and probably past its prime. He recalls
“I remember a very well built but gentle South African resident coming into the dining room at breakfast time one day, dressed only in a towel and plaster dust – he had leant against the wall of the shower cubicle and it had fallen over, with him still inside it!”
“A group of us used to go to the London Hospital in Whitechapel on Sunday mornings to push patients in wheelchairs and even in beds to the church service in a lecture theatre, and I also sometimes drove the house minibus for the Elderly Mentally Infirm group, being ‘trained’ in minibus-driving at 5pm London rush-hour! And, of course, the Tower Hill branch of Toc H met at No 42 – I had been a member of the branch in my time at college in London, which is how I came to be a resident. I enjoyed my time there, and did some of my revising for final exams on the roof in the hot summer – a fire escape connected with Wakefield House next door so it was safer than it sounds.”Martin Rivett
In the early 70s two major events meant the attention on 42 (and Crutched Friars round the corner) diminished. Firstly the HQ moved off Tower Hill to Wendover and though Sandy Giles – the director – remained on the Hill but when his replacement Ken Prideaux-Brune was appointed in 1974 he would be based out in Buckinghamshire, Then, of course, in December 1972, Tubby, the founder padre and for so long the centre point of Tower Hill, joined the Elder Brethren.
42 would survive another decade, mostly as a hostel but its days were numbered. Although some administrative functions were still run from there (The National Projects office moved round from Crutched Friars for instance), there was not so much activity by Toc H. The British Red Cross even moved in to part of the building for a time in the 70s.
By the eighties the building was run down and the Wakefield Trust decided to close and sell it. As part of the deal the Trust promised to find Toc H another building within the square mile of Tower Hill. This turned out to be the community house at 38 Newark Street which was renovated in 1984 and opened for Toc H the following year. That though is probably a story for another day.
Closure planned by Oct 1982
In the article (Published in the October 1982 Point 3) Peter stated that Talbot House was closed but still open at Christmas as Peter organised Xmas Party for Asian children. Peter retired April 1983. He wasn’t at all happy about the way the closure had been carried out; he had after all spent the last 15 years of his life working there. The problem was the age old conflict between business-heads and community ones. Peter of course fell in to the latter category. In the article he listed some of what had gone on at the house during his tenure. I cherry pick just a few: Meetings of BAOR volunteers, Winants, Claytons, and branches; tenants meetings; the London Settlements Committee; the Asian Artists Association & c. Activities included a refugee club (for mainly Vietnamese refugees); old people’s parties; discos for people with disabilities; skittles for the community; and so much more. Peter’s list is ten times as long as the above and I bet he left twice as much again out. Through forgetfulness or modesty. His own work with the Bangladeshi community is touched on in this blog but you really should seek out Brick Lane……Talbot House truly had been the heart of Toc H on Tower Hill.
By the time the Trust was ready to undertake its big refurbishment project everything had changed. Much of 41 was I think empty (the two commercial leases had not been renewed) and the hostel in 42 had been closed. People were no longer interested in sleeping three or four to a room and didn’t want evening meals provided at a set time. Toc H moved to a smaller property in Newark Street, behind the London Hospital. The lunch club restaurant had ceased to be viable and had been closed around 1970. The young Bangladeshis living in Number Seven were also ready to move into flats. I’m not sure that any of the flats in 6 The Crescent were still occupied. An era had come to an end and it was time for both the Trust and Toc H to move on.
Once Toc H had left the building, the developers moved in and in the late 80s the building at the back was rebuilt as the current six storey office L-shaped office block across the back of 42 and 41. In doing so some of the mismatched warehouse at the back was demolished exposing the city wall and it is now possible to visit this section behind the hotels. The works also included 6&7 The Crescent. The reconstruction won the architects and builders a City Heritage Award from Master Company Painter Stainers. There is a plaque on back side wall to this effect. Work done at 43 included turning the vaulted cellar into a wine library which it remains to this day.
At this point the (or by this point) the front building had been renumbered 43 and the building at the back retained 42. The complex was now known as Trinity Court. At the same time nos 8-11 The Crescent were demolished and rebuilt. 42 was then extensively refurbished on the 2010s
Today, above the wine library, 43 is now the Parish House so as Ken Prideaux-Brune remarked, in many ways the resurrection of 42 as the Parish House at 43 Trinity Square is a return to Charlotte Tetley’s original intention.
41 Trinity Square (Wakefield House)
Whilst 42 is the most widely known Toc H property in the row, its neighbour at 41 more than played a part in the story. Once the Thames Conservancy Office, 41 was the original home of the Wakefield Trust (See below) and the legal centre of the mile radius within which its work could be carried out. Toc H utilised it for many things over the years including the editorial address of The Journal/Point 3 in late sixties and early seventies and the South East Regional Office in the eighties.
Owned by the Wakefield Trust, who had an office on the ground floor where Wag, now Clerk to the Wakefield Trust as well as looking after Tubby’s finances worked. Couly had her own small office and there was a large front office where Tubby’s other two secretaries worked along with John Durham, the deputy vicar of All Hallows. Behind that was a small office for WAG. ‘Wag’ was Clerk to the Wakefield Trust and also looked after Tubby’s personal finances.
As stated earlier, Tubby’s flat was now in 41 on the top floor – virtually the attic. A door half-way down the stairs from Tubby’s flat led through to 42, so Tubby could go through there and down the stairs in 42 to reach his dining room. On the floor below was a room where the current ADC or ADCs slept.
Kenneth Prideaux-Brune recalls:
“In front the small room was my bedroom until Barbara and I married in 1966. The larger front room was my office (I held the world record for the shortest commute!). That was the Winant Clayton office and the office for the three of us who launched the Toc H work camp programme. The same year I got married I became editor of the Toc H magazine as well as Winant Clayton administrator, still working from the same office and I then took over the secretary who had been working for the previous editor and she worked in what had been my bedroom. When Tubby died the flat was lived in by Judy Broomfield (who succeeded me running Winant Clayton) and her husband Rodney, a high-flyer in the City and treasurer of Toc H. They moved out when they started a family and by that time I had become director of Toc H and moved to Wendover. ”
It wasn’t exclusively used by Toc H though by any means. The middle two floors were let commercially: the 3rd floor to John Jameson’s Irish Whisky, and Joseph Barber – who owned or had owned so many of the warehouses around the city – had offices there as late as 1950.
So let’s take a break from the material aspects of Toc H on Tower Hill and take a look at what was being achieved there by Tubby and Toc H.
Getting Things Done Part 1
The first big drive was less about Toc H and more about Tubby the historian and parishioner. One of his passions when he arrived on the Hill was the need to preserve its history and clear it off the monstrous warehouses and industrial premises that lined the Hill and littered the streets around it.
Despite its historic importance and the presence of the magnificent Tower of London, the entire area had long ago fallen into disrepair. In the 17th century parts of the Hill were used as a rubbish dump and there was even a small quarry there.
The first attempt at improving it came when Trinity House chose to move their HQ there from the winding Water Lane closer to the river. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1797 and included construction of a highway and the enclosure and laying out of Trinity Square Gardens. The Act led to the formation of the Tower Hill Trust to oversee Great Tower Hill and the Gardens. The Trust was entitled to levy a rate from all residents of the Square to pay for the works and ongoing maintenance. The gardens were completed around 1797-8 and were laid out very simply in the form of an oval, and consisted of a central grassed area with small flowerbeds surrounded by a footpath, shrubbery and iron railings on stone plinths.
Nonetheless, during the 19th century many of the great houses on the square were subdivided into business premises or replaced with warehouses and the area declined again.
The coming of the Port of London Authority HQ swept away many of the streets in the North West corner of the Hill shortly before Tubby’s arrival in 1922.
The first significant improvement after Tubby got there was the opening of the Merchant Navy Memorial by Queen Mary (deputising for her husband King George) in 1928. Interestingly, the opening was first time that Queen Mary’s voice was heard on radio. Despite it being unveiled on Tubby’s birthday – 12th December – he had little to do with its creation. And, jumping ahead a few years, when the World War II Memorial was proposed, Tubby was vehemently opposed to it. He referred to it dismissively as “a sunken garden for sunken sailors”! His campaign obviously got nowhere but his argument was that what the East End most needed was more open space and the proposed memorial would take away a large chunk of open space on the edge of Tower Hamlets.
So what was Tubby’s first contribution to the improvement of the Hill? Well, once established in Talbot House, Tubby turned to the area around it. In a newspaper article in Feb 1931, he announced that he has become the tenant of a grin, dank patch of ground behind a hoarding (Which he names Hangman’s Hoarding) next to the wooden surface building of the long closed Tower Of London station (By then a spirits warehouse). It was owned the Metropolitan District Railway Company and Tubby had to persuade them he would be a fit tenant.
“at last the authorities said that if Clayton would promise not to keep pigs in it, and not to bring there any gunpowder or spirits or petroleum, he could have the plot at a certain rent. This the parliamentary group of Toc H promised to pay”
He had plans to make a new Postmen’s Park by turning the plot into a little grass site bordered by flowers. He also wanted it to be a playground. For a long time the boys who live near the Tower have been thinking they would like to play on an old, disused plot of ground lying between two tall buildings in Trinity Square. It was not very big, about 60 feet by 15, but “there are not many places to play in in that world of shipping offices and warehouses.
Tubby set to work on his new garden. Built on a tiny plot of vacant land allegedly the birthplace of William Penn. All the mud and stones and refuse were cleared away and a good floor made of gravel and concrete. The lower stages of the walls were distempered cream, and a ledge left with a stone slab on it where coats and bats and tackle can be put. At the rear a stout, high fence was built, to catch unwary balls, and the front of the plot boarded up with a very nice double gate in open ironwork. Next were brought in six little cypress and five box trees, in tubs, and set round the western end of the enclosure. A board was painted saying in clear letters ‘This is Dingley Dell’, and fastened on the outer boards for all to see.
Tubby had a shelter built using 300 year old wood and old church glass. It was to be primarily for Scouts who worked in the city firms but also a coffee bar for the unemployed. The timber was gifted to Tubby by Messrs White from their old warehouse in Love Lane (Where Ramsey MacDonald – himself a Toc H President) had worked as a boy. The new courtyard was described thus:
You go along Tower Hill, following the big garden railings round. In the distance you see a sudden picture of a happy-looking house, clean and shining, with flowerboxes at every window and the Toc H sign over the door. Looking that way you spy a wooden boarding not far from Toc H House, and you see the board: This is Dingley Dell
The name Dingley Dell is taken from the name of the camp outside Poperinge where Tubby briefly set up shop when the shelling of Talbot House was too dangerous from him to remain. In turn, the name was taken from Dicken’s Pickwick papers, where it was the village where Mr Wardle’s farm lay.
Dingley Dell was opened on 23rd April 1931 though there was a separate opening by Sir Alfred Pickford, Development Commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association in July.
At this point we should perhaps take a look at how this work on Tower Hill was being financed. Toc H subsisted on membership fees and donations but there was no spare cash to pay for Tubby’s bolder dreams. He could, of course, charm the birds out of the trees and had many wealthy friends from business and the upper classes who would happily produce a cheque for him from time to time. In the late 1920s two of the most generous of those donors emerged. Lord Wakefield we will deal with shortly but the other was the aforementioned Charlotte Tetley. By and large the donations from these two philanthropic supporters were wrapped in a number of trusts which we will briefly describe here.
The first trust to be established, through a donation of £20,000 from Charlotte Tetley in October 1926 (The deed was established on 31st December 1927) was the All Hallows’ Toc H Trust (aka the Toc H and All Hallows Trust). The trust deed was held jointly by the patron, Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury (who dedicated at All Hallows in November 1928 a few days before his retirement), and the Corporation of Toc H. It marked the first official connection between the church and All Hallows.
The purpose of this fund was specifically to assist the training and ordination of more priests. This was Tubby’s big passion that had started in Poperinge, continued at Knutsford, and was now one of the main focusses of All Hallows where a College was established. When 42 was acquired the following year, this became the Collegiate House.
This work was supplemented with memorial chaplaincies specifically to pay the salaries of Toc H Padres. Charlotte herself endowed the Henry Tetley Memorial Chaplaincy and the Herbert Fleming Memorial Chaplaincy. The Trust itself paid for the Toc H All Hallows Chaplaincy. At some point I will be writing an article on Tubby’s ADCs, most of whom in the early days were also Curates at All Hallows. This will demonstrate just how many of these young men – most also in Toc H – went on to have lengthy and often lofty careers in the church.
A part of the Trust was used in 1927 to rent Pierhead House in Wapping as a training centre and retreat for All Hallows. This was soon taken over by Toc H as their training centre until the war. It was also this Trust that originally allowed the purchase of Talbot House (42 Trinity Square)
The Toc H and All Hallows Trust is still in existence.
To safeguard the property the Tetley Trust was founded by a trust deed dated 27 April 1931. This is one reason why it was never seen as a Mark like the other Toc H hostels, as it was not solely owned or leased by the Movement and had a diverse purpose.
On 6 December 1933 Charlotte made another gift of £2,500 for a House of Charity or Benevolence on Tower Hill in c.1963 this gift, the House of Benevolence Fund, was transferred from the Tower Hill Improvement Trust to the Wakefield Trust and was thereafter known as the Lady Wakefield Benevolence Charity.
The Tetley trust was administered by the Wakefield Trust from 1966 and the two merged in 2008.
Lord Wakefield joins my long list of those who deserve their own blog but meantime let me summarise how he came to meet Tubby and get involved with him. In 1926, a group of men from the Corn Exchange in Mark Lane wished to commemorate men of the London (Division) the 10th Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. They approached Tubby who agreed to hold services at All Hallows on 1st July. Many of the heads of City firms were invited and a telegram was sent to Lord Wakefield, the head of Castrol (At that time?) and a former Lord Mayor of the City of London. Early services were held at 7am and 8am but the main one began at 1.05pm. After the service Tubby met with Lord Wakefield and discussed his plans for the Tower; Wakefield was engaged and promised to help. Thus began a beautiful thing and – as we shall see very shortly – set about improving Tower Hill together. Wakefield also supported Toc H in many ways but will always being remembered for buying the original Talbot House from its owner and returning it to the Movement.
At first his generous donations were made directly or through other trusts but in 1937 the Wakefield Trust was established. Wakefield gave a number of houses in the vicinity of Tower Hill “for such charitable purposes as will be most conducive to the development of Tower Hill and Trinity Square as a centre of welfare work or as a centre from which welfare work can be conducted”. The deed spelt out the following specific uses: a headquarters for Toc H or another suitable charity; a hostel for young men engaged in welfare work; clubs for young men and women; educational or recreational use in connection with any of the above.
In the early 21st century the properties owned by the Wakefield Trust are 6-7 The Crescent; 8-11 The Crescent; 41 Trinity Square; 42 Trinity Square; and 42 Crutched Friars which are let as investment properties, and 43 Trinity Square which is let to All Hallows at a peppercorn rent (Except the basement which is let commercially)
There is now one more Trust to consider and for the purposes of this blog it is one of the most interesting. Tubby, as we have seen, was keen to rid Tower Hill of its hideous carbuncles (to borrow a phrase form another aesthetic architecture aspirant). Tubby’s was not an idle dream either; he had plans. In October 1933 Tubby”) Clayton and Dr Bertram Ralph Leftwich published The Pageant of Tower Hill, which included the outline of a scheme to improve the Hill. In December 1933 the inaugural meeting of the Tower Hill Improvement Fund was held. Lord Wakefield was elected President and launched an appeal at the Guildhall in January 1934. Earlier, on 28th April 1933 the Tower Hill Improvement Company had been incorporated gaining a certificate of entitlement to commence business on 27 June 1933
Leftwich was the librarian at Custom House.
Despite his ‘day job’ at All Hallows and his ‘hobby’ of Toc H, Tubby worked diligently for the Tower Hill Improvement Trust and much of what will be unravelled in the next several paragraphs was down to him. But he was supported by a team of big hitters. The first General Secretary was the journalist William Singer Barclay, later replaced by R F Gingell who worked for the PLA. The Committee in 1934 was:
Lord Wakefield (President); Sir Follett Holt (Chairman), Tubby (Chaplain); Sir Ion Hamilton Benn and Viscount Goschen of Hawkhurst (Honorary Treasurers); Michael Lubbock and Leonard Tetley (Honorary Secretaries). The Councillors were: Frederick Robert Stephen Balfour, Lance Prideaux-Brune, F Ashley Cooper, Cecil Ellis, Sir George Herbert Duckworth, Frank Follett Holt, Montague Ellis, Michael Lubbock, George William Reynolds, Leonard Tetley
Sir Arthur Follett Holt was a retired railway engineer, very influential in Argentina where he was Chairman of many railway companies.
Frank Follett Holt – was his stockbroker son, Balfour was a horticulturist, Lance Prideaux-Brune we already know, F Ashley Cooper was probably Frederick Ashley-Cooper the renowned cricket historian, Sir George Duckworth was secretary to the Royal Commission on Public Monuments amongst many other public service roles. If you have read my previous blogs you will know that Montague and Cecil Ellis were the father and son solicitors who looked after Toc H’s affairs. Leonard Tetley was Charlotte’s son whom we have mentioned earlier.
Reynolds was the General manager and a Director of the Guardian Assurance company. Tubby had first approached him in 1928 to ask for his help in opening up an old city churchyard whose church had long since gone. He wanted it to be a park for city workers. Having grabbed Reynolds attention he then told him of his further plans for Tower Hill and recruited another supporter. He also took Toc H to heart and visited branches overseas and became a trustee of the Wakefield Trust
Viscount Goschen was a former MP, Governor of Madras and a member of the Privy Council whilst Michael Lubbock probably the merchant banker who later had a military career. His uncle Percy was Pepys’ librarian at Magdelene College. Lubbock’s paternal grandmother was a Gurney and one of his aunts, a Bonham-Carter, both families having strong Toc H connections.
The Trust was well supported by Lord Wakefield and others but it still had to make huge fundraising efforts. In 1935 alone these included a film premiere, a pageant at the Tower, and Lord Wakefield’s lunch at Claridges.
There were eight key targets in their initial plan as the map below shows. These included the demolition of the Nightmare on Tower Hill (1), the demolition of the eyesore building on the pavement by All Hallows (2), new fencing at the bottom of Tower Dock (3), and the demolition of the ugly warehouses on the northern edge of Tower Hill (7).
The following sketch gives a more detailed view of how they hoped the area to the north of the Tower would look.
In 1965 a set of gates were erected at the east end of All Hallows in memory of Sir Follett Holt. On the plinths are sculptures, The figures, called ‘The Sea’ designed by Cecil Thomas. A plaque reads
In memory of Sir Follett Holt, KBE, First Chairman of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust, died 20th March 1944.
The Trust’s purpose in remodelling the hill was more or less usurped after the war when the City Corporation and the LCC (later the GLC) took on this role but it continues as a charity giving grants to local organisations that meet its criteria. To facilitate this, new Schemes for the Trust were approved by the Charity Commission in October 1973, and then in April 1987. The 1987 Scheme defined the Trust’s area as Great Tower Hill, Tower Hill, and St Katharine’s Ward in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The Tower Hill Trust’s only remaining freehold property are the Wine vaults under the terrace.
The Children’s Beach
On of Tubby’s first projects with the Trust responsible for getting the Children’s Beach opened in July 1934 at a time when trips to the seaside were a luxury for many families from the East End. Families had used the Thames foreshore as beaches in the past both here, at Greenwich and elsewhere but these were not maintained in anyway and subject to the erosion of the tides. Here on Crown land in front of the Tower and in the shadow of Tower Bridge a beach was specifically created. More than 1,500 barge-loads of sand were brought in and heaped on the foreshore between St Katherine’s Steps and the Tower.
As well as the existing steps to get down a gangway was installed – a gift from the P&O Steam Navigation Company and R & H Green and Silley, Weir & Co Ltd. Work on the beach itself was done by Mowlem for free.
The beach was opened to the public by the Lieutenant Governor of the Tower on 23 July 1934, the king, George V declaring that it was to be used by the children of London who should have “free access forever”. A waterman patrolled in a rowboat during play hours.
The beach was a huge success – even though it was always closed at high tide, between 1934 and the outbreak of war in 1939, over half a million people used it, most of them coming from the East End, particularly Stepney and Poplar. During the Second World War, the beach was closed. It was re-opened in 1946 by the Governor of the Tower, Col Edward Hamilton Carkeet-James.
The trust also installed a new fence and gates on Tower Dock and Tower Pier which Tubby blessed.
However, the beaches use declined, and because the river was considered polluted and unsafe for bathing, it was finally closed in 1971.
One little known fact about the Children’s Beach is that Tubby initially envisaged the Winant volunteers as coming over to be lifeguards for the beach. In the summer of 1948 ten of the first seventeen Winants did just that!
Dec 1937 it was announced that a bust of Wakefield by Cecil Thomas is to be set in the wall of Wakefield House to commemorate his work for the Tower Improvement Trust. It is topped by a Toc H Lamp of maintenance.
A magazine was launched in March 1939 with the title of The Tower Hill Review. It encapsulated Toc H, All Hallows , and the Tower Hill Improvement in one place. Cyril Pearson was editor with Michel Coleman as his assistant and WAG as Business Manager. I find no evidence of a second edition and I suspect the war probably put paid to it.
The Vine Street Playground
The Trust next managed to acquire some land on the northern section of Tower Hill to make room for a small park in 1937 but we discuss that a little later. The next big installation was the Children’s Playground which was constructed following the purchase of 3-5 Vine Street in 1937 and later 1-2 The Crescent, Minories. It was opened in May 1938 and taken over by the City of London Corporation in December 1939. Reputed to be only Children’s Playground in the City at the time it opened, it later fell under the King George’s Field project and was relocated to Portsoken in the seventies where it remains today albeit a park, rather than a Children’s playground. It was visited by the Queen in 1938 (See Royal Visits section at end of blog)
Before we go much further in the achievements of Tubby, Toc H and the Tower Hill Improvement Trust, our winding journey needs to go back and look at some more buildings acquired by Toc H before the war.
28 Great Tower Street
50 Great Tower Street closed in 1932 but in December 1933 the LWH moved in just up the road at 28 Great Tower Street (On corner of Water Lane). It was officially opened on the 21st February 1934 by the Duchess of York. The New June hostel was re-established here and the LWH headquarters returned to Great Tower Street having flitted around a number of other premises in London.
A former coffee shop and eating house – the LWH found piles of cutlery in the cellar of 28 – it also must have served as a barber or hairdresser as the mosaic tiles on the doorstep proclaimed “C.C.C Shaving”. Marratt and Ellis opticians, retained the shop on the ground floor and the women had to climb the narrow, curved staircase to reach their club room and bedrooms on the upper four floors. The bedrooms were named as memorials for departed women such as Isabel Clayton (Tubby’s sister), Patsy Leonard (Pat Leonard’s sister who died after a car accident in May 1926) and Constance Colt-Williams (A First World War nurse captured by the Germans and who died in 1920). The kitchen was well-appointed, apparently with the latest in gas cookers which was useful as the lunch club moved here, though the larder was a cage hung outside on the window sill.
18 Byward Street
In January 1937 LWH moved their headquarters from New June to 18 Byward Street and stayed there until they moved to Crutched Friars House in November 1938
This ‘ugly little building’ on the pavement outside the north wall of All Hallows was essentially a cover over an extra exit for Mark Lane with an office slapped on top. It was purchased by the Wakefield Trust so it could be demolished but – in what we will shortly see was a common move – Tubby utilised it whilst it awaited its fate. A couple of years after the LWH moved out the Luftwaffe actually began the demolition and the Trust later completed it leaving only the entrance to the underground station (and later the subway) that remains today..
Crutched Friars House
In 1938 Charlotte Tetley (via the Wakefield Trust) once again intervened and the League of Women Helpers were finally gifted a building to use as their headquarters for the rest of their days. Crutched Friars House at 42 Crutched Friars – a two minute walk from Talbot House – was reputedly the home of the Spanish Embassy in Pepys day. A wood framed-structure that went down two cellars deep it features a famous staircase – the John Adams staircase – dating from 1720: seventy-two steps from the ground floor to the top flat. The LWH had it restored by stripping layers of paint from it and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire performed the opening ceremony of the new headquarters from those stairs in November 1938. In later years John Burgess recalls admitting many people to the building so they could see and photograph or sketch the staircase.
The building was a mix of flats or bedrooms and office space primarily for the Women’s Association (as it became). In 1959 Women Freemasons adopted one of the rooms and paid for it to be refurbished. Room names include The Rookery and Cheltenham Corner (Furnished by Cheltenham Ladies College)
The lunch club was of course held in the basement for some thirty years and there were meeting rooms on the ground floor. Alison Macfie lived in a flat on the top floor until her death in 1963. She was known as Spiritual Warden. John and Marolyn Burgess moved into her flat in 1970 and John acted as warden for a while.
After the merger of the Movements around 1971 Crutched Friars House took on more general usage. The South East Regional Office was based there as was the International Office and the National Projects office. Sir Alexander Giles – Toc H Director – was based at Crutched Friars after headquarters moved to Wendover. He and his wife Meg lived round the corner at 6 The Crescent (See below). After the lunch club closed in 1968 a coffee business took over the basement. Below the basement were further cellars where wine had once been stored. The Tower Hill Mobile Action Group held a Halloween Party down there. It was cobwebby and spooky and old and dusty, quite perfect for such a party.
Getting Things Done Part 2
OK, after that brief interlude, let us get back to the work of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust but forgive me if the next part of the story wanders a little from Toc H as I found the story of the development of this stretch of Tower Hill quite fascinating. On the northern side of the Tower was a road running west to east. Originally the narrow Postern Row passing through a small Postern Gate, the line of buildings closest the Tower had been demolished in 1896 opening up a yard and creating George Street. This was renamed Tower Hill in 1911.
Quite how these buildings were even allowed to be built here is a mystery given the ancient edict that no building was allowed within bowshot of the Tower
The buildings were a strange mixture of old houses and warehouses and considered eyesores by many. So in 1937 the Tower Hill Improvement Trust set about purchasing them and others across the Hill. These were to be demolished in order to provide gardens and open public spaces.
Postern Row was where the Press gangs roamed and soldiers and sailors came to enlist voluntarily or otherwise. In the 1860s the shops were a mix selling “marine stores, pea-jackets, straw hats, , rope, hour-glasses, Gunter’s scales*, and dog-biscuits” (Leisure Hour – Curiosities of the Port of London Nov 1968) *An early navigation device similar to a slide-rule.
The Postern Gate was the southernmost portal to the city through the wall on the eastern side. Never a full size gate it was mostly meant for foot traffic. It was likely built at the tail end of the 13th century and fell out of use as early as 1431 when a landslip of the Tower ditch caused the southern time to collapse. The ruins of this tower can still be seen in the subway under the road. The northern tower is lost under many subsequent works but the ruins a of separate tower or staircase providing access to the top of the wall, a few metres further north of the gate itself, were discovered in the 1930s (See below).
At the lower end of a street now no longer existing, named the Vineyard, in the neighbourhood of the Tower, there used to be the basis of a Roman tower, about eight feet high, supporting a building of three storeys, in the wall of which was fixed a large stone, with the following inscription:—
“Glory be to God on high, who was graciously pleased to preserve the lives of all the people in this house, twelve in number, when the ould wall of the bulwark fell down three stories high, and so broad as three carts might enter a breast, and yet without any harm to anie of their persones. The Lord sanctify this his great providence unto them. Amen and Amen.
“It was Tuesday, the 23rd September, 1651.”
So this ragged line of 18th and 19th century buildings was targeted by the Trust. They were able to buy the freehold of many properties from the Corporation but as they had sitting tenants could not necessarily do anything until those leases had expired. So M. Myers Ivory warehouse had long taken up a string of these properties (15-20 Tower Hill) and although Victor Myers went bankrupt in 1933 the TH Improvement Fund couldn’t yet demolish the buildings. That same year Toc H temporarily took over this empty warehouse whilst No. 42 was being refurbished.
Further along, the freehold of 22 and 23 Tower Hill, was owned by the Crown Commissioners who let it on a yearly lease. Tubby’s view was that they should turn into the Eastern City Garage and thus move parking off Trinity Square and improve the traffic flow. This never happened but the building would soon find other uses.
It was no. 20, the furthest east of Myers Warehouse and built onto the city wall, that was most interesting building. It was built against the old wall, in fact more or less on top of it. The Trust had the following sign placed upon it. But Tubby played even more on its history when he installed his secretary there as we shall shortly see.
So having acquired all these buildings but not yet able to demolish them, what did Tubby do? Well make use of them of course. In February 1935 he installed the new Toc H Administrator Hubert Secretan at no.18 (along with James Bensley, a member of All Hallows clergy). His night secretary, the admirable Miss Coulson was lodged at no. 20. Technically the Trust loaned no. 20 for almonry work previously carried out from All Hallows and temporarily named the house the Lady Wakefield House of Benevolence.
The Rev John Joseph Tatum lived here (20) 1935. In 1940, in India he married Marguerite Cadman, the daughter of Baron Cadman (Got his peerage 1937), chairman of the Anglo-Persian oil Company in the 1930s.
In 1934 – according to Frank Spon in his booklet Round About Tower Hill. 26 Tower Hill was a house connected to Talbot House (42) as a hostel and called St Nicholas’ House. This was actually 22 and was primarily used for Scout related activity.
In 1935 Pat Leonard was living at 22 Tower Hill and it was also known then as Postern House. Pat was working at Toc H as Chief Overseas Commissioner at No 42 around this time and was a curate at All Hallows (1931-36) so this was probably where they lodged. His wife Katherine worked at St Mildred’s Settlement on the Isle of Dogs
Pat described it by saying at this point the wall rose to almost its full original height. It formed one wall of his dining room. It travels north through the premises of a beer-bottling company.
It was during this time at Tower Hill that Leonard wrote a small book which became a standby for Scouts throughout the world. It was “Scouts’ Owns”, published in January 1933. He was also the Scouts’ Assistant HQ Commissioner for Kindred Societies (Toc H).
Leonard had been occupied with the Scout movement ever since his first curacy in Newton Heath and, in the words of the Chief Scout’s Commissioner, “his interest continued up to the date of his death, and his influence was widespread. The Scout Movement in this country and in many parts of the Commonwealth has good reason to be grateful to Pat for the enduring work he did for Scouting, but those who had the privilege of knowing him personally keep his memory in our hearts with deep affection.” He was also the holder of the Silver Wolf.
George Moore was also installed in no. 22 and his study had the City Wall as one its faces. Kenneth Jarvis stayed with George Moore at his flat. Both men were keen Scouters and it’s no surprise that 22 became the headquarters of the 1st City of London (Lord Mayor’s Own). There was an old bottling warehouse out the back. I have written furthyer about Moore and 22 Tower Hill in this blog
In 1937 & 38 the Rev. Frederick William Baggallay is listed at 19 (No-one listed 20). Baggallay was at that time Rector of St Swithun’s and a Toc H padre. At Rugby school with Rupert Brooke (They edited the school magazine together) Baggallay came to All Hallows in 1931 to be Tubby’s right hand man. After a spell serving Toc H in India (1932-1935) he returned to All Hallows and was Honorary Assistant Administrative Padre for Toc H until 1936 when he became rector of St Swithun’s, London Stone.
In 1936 the Trust sent Frank Cottrill from the Society of Antiquaries in to investigate the properties before any work commenced and whilst investigating no 20, part of a Roman turret was found under the cellar next door (No. 19) against the inner side of the city wall. It was probably a staircase to the ramparts but it’s provoked theories that this was part of the gatehouse for the long lost Postern Gate. Plans were made to preserve it for public view but I guess the bombing stopped this.
In fact in 1937 when demolition began, it only appears that the main warehouse (15-17) was pulled down. On 18 March 1937 Lord Wakefield rang a bell after which a series of explosions ran along the building. At each explosion – and the last failed – a piece of brickwork toppled backwards. Not though because of the explosions, they were only magnesium flares for show, but rather because a team of navvies from demolition company Goodman Price were hidden behind the warehouse and tugged at ropes slung around the brick until they fell. There is some lovely Pathe footage of this event. Afterwards there was a reception at 42.
“We destroy only to create upon this site a new garden for London’s citizens, young and old”Lord Wakefield at the ceremony.
Perhaps the greatest story arising from all these placements of Toc H and All Hallows staff in condemned tenements concerns Miss Coulson, otherwise known as Couly and who was Tubby’s night secretary. When the time came to finally demolish these buildings in 1937 the papers reported that Miss Coulson was being evicted and went on to explain that she lived in a very narrow house alongside of the London Wall (Number 20 of course). As she lived to the east of the wall she was the first resident in Stepney and this position also entitled her to be an honorary anchoress – a type of religious hermit – for the Tower. In truth she probably lived west of the wall and of course true anchorites and anchoresses were literally chained to their cells. Miss Coulson was free to roam across the Hill though she was (apparently) widely known as the Anchoress. This tale has Tubby’s fingerprints all over it! Her life story will be told in more detail in the spin-off blog Tower Hill People. On eviction she moved to No 6 The Crescent which the Tower Hill Trust had recently purchased the freehold of from the corporation.
It seems Miss Coulson’s peculiar house on the wall stood for a few years longer until bomb damage during the war meant it was finally pulled down in the late forties.
On this site the Trust built a small garden. They also exposed a large part of the wall on this site. This is the same part that can be seen when exiting Tower Hill underground station today.
The gardens were named Wakefield Gardens and opened in Nov 1937. The site was given to Stepney Council and a Park Keeper, James William Bousfield of Stepney, was appointed in 1938.
In 1939 the Trust offered 14 & 18 which flanked the park to Stepney who agreed. 19 & 20 were handed over to the Office of Works Ancient Monuments Committee but were damaged during the war. They planned to dig a trench a the eastern end of the park to expose more of the wall.
The Games Ground
It is worth mentioning that there was one more Toc H project along this stretch of Tower Hill. Post war, when there was mass destruction in the area, a group of Winant volunteers turned a badly damaged building on the corner of Tower Hill and Minories into a basketball court. As all that remained was the basement, they painted the walls and constructed the court within that cellar. Unfortunately the land was sold to build the Navigation College in the mid-sixties and the basketball court was lost.
The Nightmare of Tower Hill
Now, let this journey flit back across Trinity Square to the monstrosity at the eastern end of All Hallows which Tubby called The Nightmare of Tower Hill.
It is the largest oblong box that would go upon the site, with as many flat holes in it as possible….it fails by size, colour, monotony, proportions, and architectural trimmings which do not trim. It earns for us the amused contempt of foreigners. No other race would tolerate this nightmare
The site used to be known as St Katherine’s Rent, the ground being the property of the Hospital of St. Katherine by the Tower. It was donated to them by one Robert Denton of All Hallows to found a hospital “for ye poor priests and other men and women who suddenly fell into a frenzy and lost their memory, to reside there till cured”. Eventually a row of houses called Trinity Terrace were built there but in 1864, George Myers, a speculative builder bought the site and built the massive warehouse there. It was five storeys high with two sets of vaults or cellars under it and was considered a monstrosity by many. Certainly it totally blocked the view of the Tower of London from All Hallows (And vice-versa I suppose) which is why Tubby was so opposed to it.
Although often known as the Mazawattee warehouse after the tea giants whose headquarters were there by 1894, they were far from the only tenants. Chaplin and co wine merchants had nos. 8-10 for a long time, with Mazawattee in 11 & 12. It was even known as Chaplin House at that time. There were also lots of smaller merchants – mostly in the tea or wine trade – at various times. So I generally refer to it as the Myers warehouse but not to be confused with Myers ivory warehouse on George Street/Tower Hill; the two Myers were totally unconnected.
One of the few pluses of the building was that’s it great height made it an ideal platform for watching ceremonies at the Tower or big events like the opening pf Tower Bridge on 30th June 1894.
The Tower Hill Improvement Trust managed to get hold of the property but were once again stymied by tenants having leases still to run.
There was a plan to replace the warehouse with a new building (Pictured). It’s a magnificent 1930s design and typical of the work by the award winning architects Campbell Jones and Smithers but it’s even bigger than the original warehouse obscuring the view from All Hallows even more. Tubby must have been mortified but to make matters worse, the Smithers in the firm was Alec Smithers, Tubby’s friend and a Toc H Foundation member best known for designing the casket in which the Prince of Wales’ Lamp stands. I’ve written about Smithers here.
In the end it was the Luftwaffe who once again came to the rescue in that it was damaged during the war, though not nearly as badly as Great Tower Street just a few metres away.
Finally in 1951 the warehouse was demolished clearing the way for the terrace, which soon became cluttered by kiosks and ticket offices but at least they were not high buildings.
The Tower Hill Improvement Trust President Sir John Anderson handed to deeds of the terrace over to the Lord Mayor who declared it open.
As I said earlier, the vaults remained and were occupied from the late 1950s until 1973 by the wine merchant Asher Storey. There then opened in them an exhibition – the Tower Hill Pageant – but today they are a shopping precinct. There is a plaque in the floor of the vaults which tells their story. They were Grade II Listed in 1973
To the east of Cooper’s Row on the outside of the wall was the Minories, a road owing its name to the Abbey of the Minoresses of St. Clare without Aldgate that once stood in the area. Around 1768-1774, George Dance the Younger planned and built a small estate running north to south. At the northern end was America Square whilst at the southern end was The Circus, a tight circle of houses now gone, though part of the road is still seen in the small park now covering the land. A short road – part of Vine Street – ran between the two and opened up into The Crescent, a magnificent curve of Georgian townhouses and the first crescent in London. It was originally known as American Crescent in keeping with the rest of the development. The Crescent was originally formed of 11 identical houses, each four storeys high with cellars, and featuring ornate door cases.
In addition to the houses the development included storage buildings and stabling for horses and carriages, located in the buildings opposite The Crescent, and in the spaces between America Square and The Crescent and also between The Crescent and The Circus .
In 1884 numbers 3-5 The Crescent were pulled down to allow the extension of the Metropolitan Railway’s Inner Circle line to pass under (It was built using the cut and cover method). An electricity sub-station for the underground was built on the site in 1935 and is still there today. During the building of the sub-station, part of one of the Roman bastions which were added at set intervals to the external side of the wall during the 4th century, was recorded to have survived the cutting of the railway, but was demolished as part of the construction in 1935. Notable finds from the construction site in 1935 included part of the tombstone of Classicianus (See below). This, like many other pieces of early Roman stonework, had been reused as rubble in the foundations of the bastions.
In June 1937 The City of London Lands Committee recommended an offer of £2400 from the Tower Hill Improvement Trust for the freehold of no. 6, in 1886 the home of the Work Women’s Co-operative Association. The trustees immediately allowed its use for both All Hallows and Toc H purposes.
I’m not clear what state the building was in at the time as we get a Tubby version of the story in a 1937 Journal. It reported that the house at no. 6 The Crescent – immediately behind 42 – “until recently occupied tenants who would not let us in their backyard” had fallen down. Blame was attached to the Metropolitan Railway for their trains running under the Crescent. Tubby says the building was pulled down and he acquired the site from the Corporation for £30 a year. By which he secured “an extra 60 ft. by 30 ft. wide of unbuilt ground, apart from the old cellars; a genuine 30 ft. of Roman Wall, partly surmounted by the mediaeval structure,; a set of palings; an emergency exit; a garage in the open for a vehicle; a squash court; a parade ground or a garden; a place to put a hut; a real back yard; a bit of Houndsditch, and a fund of humour together with a lot of light and air”.
Presumably he actually acquired it from the Trust and either it was not quite as demolished as he claims or it was rebuilt quickly as by 193x we know it was in use.
It was renamed as Lady Wakefield House and was initially used to house All Hallows and Toc H folks in need of accommodation. One of these was Couly – Tubby’s secretary who was being evicted from her house on Tower Hill in advance of its demolition. Other residents over the years included Sandy Giles with his wife Meg and their dachshund, Judy Auton, Alec Churcher, and Peter East. Ken Prideaux-Brune recalls:
That building had 3 or 4 independent flats. Apart from Couly one was occupied, when I first went there by a priest called ‘Barnacle’ Brown. The Warden of the hostel had another. That was Group Captain Oliver. The flat was taken over by Oliver’s successor, Peter East. He lived there until his last year, when he moved into a flat more or less opposite Toynbee Hall. Sandy Giles had a flat there when he was director of Toc H. Another was occupied by the All Hallows parish secretary, Mrs Gerry Culwick. She was not tall but quite large and stately and was referred to by us as HMS Culwick.
There was an access over the wall to 42 Trinity Square and no. 6 later became the kitchen for the hostel in Talbot House.
“joined on to Talbot House beyond the kitchen and above the Roman Wall Room”
Pete – The Memoirs of Peter Hammond Part 1 1923-1946 Peter Hammond
Next door, no. 7 The Crescent was a vicarage in 1914 (but not for All Hallows). In the 1930s it became Seamark Junior Officers Club, a club and hostel the Merchant Navy. It was run by Harry Chappell, one of Tubby’s staff at All Hallows. Harry Chappell graduated Cambridge 1931 and became Tubby’s ADC at All Hallows, on home tours and in the Persian oil fields later helped push Toc H in the Far East (with Bob Fords) mostly in oil tankers (they also visited Australasia). They returned home July 1933 and Harry went to theological college at Wells and became a Naval Chaplain based at All Hallows.
Doug Brodie recalled:
Seamark Merchant Navy Officers’ Club was located in a large old house at 7, The Crescent, Minories on the eastern edge of The City. It had escaped the bombs and comprised large rooms on five floors plus a cellar area. A room on the top floor and another on the first floor were studies, while the ground floor was taken up with a large lounge cum television room. All other rooms were bedrooms with three or four beds in each. It was pretty basic, but somewhere to stay for chaps who were studying for their Mates and Masters Tickets.
It was said that Seamark had its origins during the 1930s Depression era – Tubby Clayton became aware of men who had come ashore to study for a ticket, had little in the way of resources and needed a cheapish place to stay for a few weeks. The impression was that he had motivated the formation of Seamark through some sort of charitable status.
I have never seen proof that this was true, but whatever the case, Tubby Clayton took a personal interest in Seamark and the fellows who were in residence. From time to time he would drop in and chat with whoever was around. Occasionally he would invite a small number to his home for dinner.
On two occasions I was fortunate enough to be on the invitation list – early in 1959 and again in 1962. Dinner proved a pretty spartan sort of meal – I recall one sausage, a small spoonful of mashed potato and a few peas on my first visit. The bonus came in the form of good conversation with Tubby and the two or three acolytes that he usually had with him and the so-called ‘table games’ that followed the meal. One such game was called “Up Jackson”. Never before or since have I come across the game and unfortunately the details now escape me.
The above memoirs were taken from https://www.annvictoriaroberts.co.uk/2014/01/tubbyclayton/
In 1973, no. 7 The Crescent became available and the Wakefield Trust allowed Toc H to take it over – rent free – as a hostel to provide accommodation for young Bangladeshi men recently arrived in this country. Number Seven not only provided accommodation for some 20 young men; it became a centre for the whole community. Some of the first Bengali community organisations were founded at Number Seven and Peter East’s work there bred a generation of leaders.
Number Seven closed in July 1982 after Peter felt that it’s work was done and he found alternative accommodation for the remaining residents. He himself decided to take early retirement and go to live in Bangladesh for five years. During that time he founded a remarkable education and welfare project, which continues to expand and develop, now run entirely by local people. More information about this work can be found at http://www.khasdobir.org.uk.
In May 1966 the London Areas Office for Toc H and Toc H Women’s Association was located at 9 The Crescent.
10 and 11 were damaged during WW2, rebuilt afterwards and let commercially from then. At one stage they were proposed for Toc H HQ but were felt to be too small.
Finally in the late 1980s a programme of restoration was completed by architects Lyons, Sleeman and Hoare, which included the building of replica houses at Nos. 8 to 11 constructed to the original unified Georgian design.
Opposite the properties in The Crescent was a large rectangular bomb site that stretched from The Crescent right through to Minories. Tubby tried to turn this into a Memorial Garden. It appeared to have very limited topsoil but Tubby persisted and four or five spindly trees survived and a small number of flowering shrubs all surrounded by a low wall made from salvaged bricks. Tubby was always happy to interrupt his pottering to have a chat.
The garden was sometimes tended by Henry Bowen-Smith. An interesting character whom I hope to say more about in Tower People, a spin-off blog to this one which I shall be writing next. Tubby’s occasional driver, he took root in an old tin hut in the remains of what used to be The Circus, backing on to the remaining part of 22 & 23 Tower Hill. Originally believed to be a Dutch Seaman’s hostel- there was brick-built hotel that served this purpose before the war – Tubby had acquired the hut as All Hallows Parish Hall in the fifties. Bowen-Smith also lived here for many years and by the sixties it was also the meeting place of the Toc H Mobile Action group.
The Blitz and Tower Hill
“At the outbreak of WWII the Toc H Community on Tower Hill consisted of 42 Trinity Square (Talbot House), the official residence of the vicar of All Hallows which also serves as a hostel for about thirty men; 28 Great Tower Street (New June), a hostel accommodating a dozen women; Crutched Friars House, containing the Headquarters of Toc H (Women’s Section), four residents and lunch club accommodation; and No. 7 Tower Hill, the residence of the Rev. Michael Coleman, the acting vicar of All Hallows.”
The Further History of the Toc H Women’s Association – A.B.S. MacFie
The September 1939 register helps us understand the use the hostels were playing at the beginning of the war. At 42 we still have Tubby and Pettifer, immediately before their departure to Orkney. Hanford Williams, actually George Hanworth and he was warden of Talbot House at the time as well as being an ambulance driver.
George Moore, of whom I have recently written was listed as ARP Chaplain whilst other hostel guests included Joyce Audrey Hope Ostroróg, daughter of Stanisław Ostroróg, the renowned photographer, working as a Private Secretary, Andrew Thomson, was an officer with HM Customs, and Thomas Monson was on holiday from Canada.
At the LWH hostel at 28 Great Tower Street we see 10 guests and one housekeeper. The guest ranged from shorthand typists to health visitors and were mostly in their thirties. Many were nurses and were transferred off to other places.
Couly was living at 6 The Crescent along with Arthur (Jr) and May Pettifer, and a couple of others
Round the corner at Crutched Friars were Alison Macfie and Mary Rushworth, a 29 year old stenographer secretary whose recollections of the life on the Hill during the war feature heavily in the Further Curious History of the LWH. Some are reproduced here. Helen Benbow (General Sec) just back from Australia was evacuated to Beech farm House, Sedlescombe; Betty Hildesley (Later Elizabeth Worth) who had been standing in for Helen left to do war work; Winnie Adams remained as skeleton HQ staff as well as running the lunch club. The lunch club was a boon to workers during the war. Crutched Friars – being half empty – was later offered to the Auxiliary Fire Service as recreation rooms and bath rooms.
Besides residents there was a constant stream of sailors arriving from HMS President, the nearby naval shore base, and elsewhere, seeking hot meals and hotter baths. Michael Coleman was initially the driving force behind the war work.
A sign went up on the door of 42 saying Come And Bowl Down Your Troubles, a quote from Dickens, and the skittle alley downstairs did great service during the war for men and women serving their community – providing of course it wasn’t crammed with people sheltering from the ‘ruddy Lufwaffe’.
The war brought new duties all those at All Hallows and Toc H on the Hill. A Church Times reporter visited them at work at an Auxiliary Fire Service station. He met a very powerful trio of clergy ascending the steps of a city building ramped up with sandbags. The trio were Tubby – at home on leave from Orkney, George MacLeod – then building his Iona Community – and Michael Coleman – a Toc H and All Hallows stalwart. The group met 40 or 50 men, mostly in AFS uniform, singing a sea shanty. They were, however, waiting on Tubby who was about to deliver a speech. Just one example of the morale raising work being carried out. For the clergy it began at 5am with visits to Billingsgate to talk to the market men; the at 9am as the City workers started to flood in the audience changed; from noon until 2pm there was open air debating on the Hill; then in the afternoon it was parish visits to warehouses, wharves and docks. In the evening, as the City emptied, the Toc H clergy visited the ARP posts and Fire watching stations where men and women sat patiently watching and waiting until the need to spring into action arose. They took with them darts boards and games to help boost morale. They laid on Sunday afternoon tea-parties, picnics in Trinity Square Gardens lighted the mood for the servicemen and women and there were still lunch clubs, Scout groups etc
But in case this paints a picture of a community idyll, we have to remember the conditions they were living in. The area was under almost nightly attack during the months of the Blitz after September 1940.
Michael Coleman, the Rev R. Park, and the Rev A C Trench were all Air Raid Wardens. The skittle alley at 42 became a shelter as did the crypt in the cellar at Crutched Friars. Toc H community also able to shelter in basement of PLA building though on 8 Dec 1940 it received a direct hit and the sheltering Toc Hers retired first to the Roman Wall room at 42 then for several weeks had to use the vaults under the Myers warehouse (Now the shopping centre). These were, Rushmore says, designed to keep wine at its best but without much regard to human beings.
The Myers warehouse went up in smoke (though it would be 1951 before it was finally demolished)
Let Mary Rushmore tell the tale
In the early hours of Monday 9th December, Tubby was awakened with the news that All Hallows had been hit by a high explosive bomb, which had landed on the east vestry, wrecking the east wall and window and causing blast damage in the inner church. The altar and chancel were completely wrecked.
Nevertheless, a few days later the World Chain of Light was started from the undamaged crypt of All Hallows.
However worse was to come immediately after Christmas. On 29th December the area was subjected to air raids that caused what was referred to as the ‘Second Great Fire of London’. On that night London suffered its most devastating raid. From 6.15pm until the all-clear sounded three and a half hours later, some 100,000 incendiary bombs and another 24,000 high-explosive devices rained on the heart of the City, destroying many of the buildings that had stood since the City of London was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666. At one point, some 1,500 fires were raging in a strip of land that stretched from St Paul’s Cathedral to the borders of Islington to the north – the largest continuous area of destruction in any Blitz attack on the UK.
The Thames was abnormally low that night, and fire crews found it impossible to get their hoses through the mud and into the water. The water mains were soon fractured and pumps ran dry. As it was the weekend many of the buildings in the city of London were unattended and locked, hampering the efforts of the fire brigade to get to incendiaries on roofs.
On his rounds, Padre Trench saw that All Hallows was in danger from nearby fires and decided to remove the communion vessels, candlesticks, cross, service book and record book, and by the time he had completed this task the fire had a strong hold on the church, which in the 136th year of its life was burnt out. The roof of the church fell in and the inside pillars of the south aisle were destroyed, only the tower and the North wall and Porch remained. Not far away in the square mile – the old city of London – the raid had also caused much damage. 31 guild halls, 19 churches and all of Paternoster Row, the heart of the publishing industry, were destroyed. In the square mile 160 civilians died, 14 firemen and 500 injured, 250 of them firefighters.
She was proved right. The Port of London Authority building was rebuilt and renovated by 1970s. Trinity House was restored and reopened by Queen Elizabeth in October 1953. Due largely to Tubby Clayton’s efforts at fundraising at home and abroad, the restored and rebuilt church of All Hallows was dedicated in the presence of the Queen Mother on July 23rd 1957.
On the 8th Dec 1940, the same night All Hallows was first bombed, No. 22 Tower Hill took a hit and the front part of the building was destroyed. Miraculously the old city wall it was built against was virtually untouched.
The same night All Hallows burned, the Myers warehouse burnt again as did the George Inn, Trinity House, Seamark, and the Tower itself. 42 was also endangered forcing those sheltering there to evacuate to Crutched Friars where they were joined by staff from Trinity Hose, the caretaker of the Public Ledger in Great Tower Street along with his cat, his niece and his monkey in no particular order of preference; the landlord of the George on his one leg with his till under his arm. Padre Trench patrolled the hill ensuring stragglers were sent to a safe place and also rescuing altar fittings from the Porch Room at All Hallows. He rescued candlesticks and communion vessels along with record books and Service books despite the fact the church was blazing well. New June was hit that night and No 7 destroyed. Then the Luftwaffe looked set for a full house when the roof of no 40 caught fire and threatened to spread to 41 and then 42 Hostellers tried to fight the fire from the top floor of 41 but this failed so Charles Garner and Tommy (?) got on the roof and hacked away slates so the water could reach the fire. This time the firefighters succeeded and saved 42 which was handy since Couly and Wag were in the Roman Wall room making tea for the firemen and policemen.
The next day the extent of destruction could be revealed. In the days that followed (The 29th December) Churchill walked round the Hill looking at the destruction; Royal Engineers bustled around Byward Street blowing up dangerous buildings.
New June was uninhabitable, no. 7 was completely destroyed, indeed little remained of that entire block. Only the Tiger Tavern and a couple of other buildings remained at the bottom of Tower Dock.
Crutched Friars suffered only minor damage but All Hallows was all but unusable, and so services took place at Talbot House. In April 1941 they moved to a new home in the undamaged crypt and under croft of All Hallows then the Porch Room was restored and they took place there until 1949 when the North Aisle was rededicated.
“It is the destruction of all that so much that is historic and irreplaceable that hurts so badly.” She wondered if the raid on 29th December would result in the breaking up of the community at Tower Hill, but hoped not “there was something finer than buildings, which bombs could not destroy.”
Talbot House had just about been saved by the efforts of the fire fighters and without gas, water and electric for a month in 1941 it carried on. The Plumer dormitory was destroyed in 1941 which meant they lost 8 beds. Other rooms were damaged or had to be repurposed so they were constantly rejigging accommodation. Although the house was half-filled with servicemen, they never lost sight of their original purpose and provided accommodation for young men just starting work.
WAG in his reports, told how the staff never let them down. On several occasions they were bombed out of their own homes but after a quick sweep up, came to carry out their duties at Talbot House regardless. It received a full refurbishment in 1948.
The destruction around Tower Hill caused by the war meant the onus of responsibility for improving the Hill started to switch from the Tower Hill Trust to the City of London Corporation and London County Council (Later the GLC). The Trust Deed was altered several times and its objects whittled away until it reached the point it is today where it primarily looks after the people of the area rather than the environment. That said, during 2011-3 the Trust part funded the refurbishment of Trinity Square Gardens. But we jump ahead of ourselves. Let us look at how the Hill as it affected Toc H was repaired.
The damage was massive as the following photos show
Tubby launched an appeal – ultimately successful – to rebuild All Hallows. Arthur Pettifer’s garden at the east end of the church just about survived the Blitz but was mostly lost under contractor’s materials and equipment as the church was reconstructed.
In 1946 Nancy Price unveiled three carved wooden bird-baths in the garden of All Hallows as a memorial to messenger pigeons who gave their lives on Active Service during the war. Tubby conducted the service and Wing Commander Rayner brought two pigeons – decorated for their bravery – to accept the award.
The All Hallows rebuilding happened relatively quickly. Much of the rest of the area remain derelict. In 1960 LCC and the City Corporation launched plans for a controversial rebuild knows as the Tower Hill Precinct. This included a mammoth office block on the land between Great Tower Street and Lower Thames Street – what became Tower Place. This was the most unwanted part of an otherwise reasonable plan.
In 1957 Toc H paid for flowers to fill the bombsites around Tower Hill over the summer. In the autumn it was feared that would have to be thrown away due to lack of storage space but an appeal led to hundreds of offers of pots for cuttings and an Essex greenhouse owner offered to heat their glasshouses over the winter to keep the plants alive for next year.
The Myer’s warehouse was finally pulled down and replaced by an open terrace over the wine vaults. Here the speaker’s came to preach or proselytize; carts were set up to sell to the tourists; Toc H even ran a gift stall here for a while but the ambitious gardens desired by the Tower Hill Improvement Trust did not come to pass.
The octagonal building that (used) to stand on the terrace was built when the warehouse was pulled down and was an emergency escape from the vaults below. It bore a plaque to Sir Follet Holt.
There were ambitious plans put forward to turn the area into a giant park much as Tubby himself desired. One of the big problems was that Upper Thames Street/Byward Street/Tower Hill was a major thoroughfare from Cheapside through to the East End and Tower Bridge. This meant the road couldn’t be constricted although Tubby suggested putting the road under the Hill. This never happened of course and Thames Street was widened and realigned c.1965.
So various new plans were put forward by different bodies. Most controversially – at least as far as Tubby is concerned – is the plan for Tower Place. Having so recently seen the Myers’ warehouse finally gone to open up the vista from All Hallows to the Tower, now the LCC/City plan to obstruct the view to the Thames with a sixteen story office block and a lower ‘s’ shaped
Under the London County Council/City of London Corporation Tower Precinct scheme, Tower Place was constructed. It needed 23 separate permits due to the ancient law against any building within bowshot of the Tower but it duly appeared. A great S-Shaped block known as the Bowring Building that included a large underground coach garage which got rid of rows of tourist coaches from the Hill was accompanied by a corresponding 16 storey tower block called Vincula House.
The project was the work of the Tower Hill Property Company which was in fact a joint venture between the City of London Real Property Company and Bowring, (The insurance group(?) who would become the first tenants.
The Tiger Tavern was rebuilt within the eastern end
In the sixties it became clear that Mark Lane station (Since the 1st September 1946 renamed as Tower Hill) was not large enough for the amount of passenger traffic it was now getting and it couldn’t be improved where it was. So instead they decided to send it back to more or less where it started out. The new Tower Hill station was built under 38 Trinity Square the ground floor of which was taken over by London Transport as the new ticket office.
Work started in 1964 and included three plane trees being lifted and sent to a nursery in Acton for the duration of the works. In March 1965 a bomb was discovered on the site and removed by the army. The station opened 5 Feb 1967 at a cost of £1,750,000.
Then in 1970 the GLC (which replaced the LCC in 1965) announced further plans to declutter Tower Hill and fully pedestrianize the western part of the Hill. In 1972/3 Trinity Place outside the tube station was to be made greener and the Old George finally came down so that Wakefield Gardens could be expanded further. A subway was built from the underground station to the Tower emerging by the bastion.
22 continued to exist until the 1970 changes.22 Tower Hill remained and was used by J J Redding until the end?? Cork merchants formerly in Minories
Tower Hill station was upgraded again in 1987 with a new entrance hall being built under the open space in front of the station (Wakefield park). New surface buildintgs would be designed to blend in with the landscape.
In the 1970s the vaults opened under the terrace by All Hallows as an audio-visual exhibition.
15 Trinity Square
We have seen how Tubby and Toc H spread out over Tower Hill but as the 1950s drew to a close, Tubby had still not achieved his desire to have Toc H headquarters on the Hill.
As early as the late thirties Lord Wakefield had offered a site and a fund was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor Frank Bowater to raise the necessary funds. The war soon got in the way of this plan.
In the mid-fifties there were advanced plans to move HQ to some properties in The Crescent – specifically numbers 10 & 11 (Though every house from 8-11 was considered). This was even announced in the City press as a done deal. However it was decided that these properties were too small and in the October 1954 edition of The Journal there was a map that showed that in addition to the planned move to The Crescent, HQ were also to take over a large building on Sparrow Corner opposite the entrance to the Circus.
An ‘island’ building at the foot of the Minories and with views across to All Hallows was due to become vacant in 1956. This magnificent building – now sadly demolished – was built as the Institute of Marine Engineers. However, this appeared to be nothing more than a pipe-dream and the plans all fell through.
So instead, in 1955 on the Movement’s 40th birthday (And Tubby’s 70th) a new fund was started to facilitate headquarters somewhere on the Hill. This time the plans were to come to fruition and in The Journal of January 1959 it was announced to the Movement that Toc H had purchased 15 Trinity Square, just across the road from All Hallows. The freehold cost was £210,000 – remember that figure, it will mean something shortly.
Built by E.B I’Anson in 1908-9 and heightened by Alfred Roberts in 1931, no.15 stood on the corner of Byward Street and Trinity Square. The building belonged to the General Steam Navigation Company from the time it was built until they sold it Toc H, hence the great eagle sculpture – their symbol – on the front.
It became Toc H’s freehold property on the 25th March 1960 with alterations beginning three days later. They were completed to enable it to be officially opened on the 5th October that same year by the newly elected Lord Mayor of London, Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen.
Conveniently close to Tower Hill station (Later Mark Lane) it rose over four floors but Toc H only planned to use the top two letting out the basement, ground and first floor. The bottom floors were let to Hays Wharf (At least initially) and the Tower Hill Improvement Trust leased a room on the second floor. One interesting tenant during the period didn’t rent out any of the lower floors, rather they rather sofa-surfed at Toc H’s place. Alec and Mora Dickson’s Community Service Volunteers were founded in 1962 and bunked in with Toc H until they could afford their own premises. Dickson of course had previously started Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). CSV are still going today but they were rebranded Volunteering Matters in 2015.
There were some residential flats in the building and one was occupied from 1964-1966 by former milk salesman Sid Higbee and his wife Gladys, who were the caretakers. They left in March 1966 when Sid crossed the road to become Verger and Parish Clerk at All Hallows
And so you’d think that after all the effort to get their headquarters on Tower Hill, Toc H would have been happy to remain there forever. What no-one had predicted though was the incredible rise in property prices in the City and as the sixties turned into the seventies – a time of great change for the Movement anyway – they realised they were sitting on a goldmine.
It was suggested that 15 Trinity Square might be sold to generate more income for Toc H. In the words of the Honorary Treasurer George Liddle
“The object of the exercise is largely to provide additional funds for development work”
Tubby approved the scheme but added
“Toc H remains committed to Tower Hill. We don’t want to leave it altogether.”
A private offer for £825,000 was receive but Tubby’s friend and former mentor of the CEC Sir G Miles Clifford persuaded him it was worth more. Vice President Angus Ogilvy suggested they put it out to tender which they did and received 12 bids with chartered surveyors Donaldsons handling the process. One of those bids was a paltry £276,000 whilst the winning bid – from an investment company called Compass Securities Limited – was £2,127,600. Remember they paid £210,000 for it. A little over £2m in 1972 terms would be somewhere in the region of £24 million today. It was sold in April 1972.
At first, from 21 Aug 1972, headquarters and the then director Sandy Giles, moved into Crutched Friars and only the Administrative HQ – with Gilbert Francis (General Secretary) running things – moved to the old Service Club at Wendover in Buckinghamshire but in 1974 the new director, Ken Prideaux-Brune and thus the Toc H HQ decamped to the countryside.
The entrance to 15 Trinity Square today
Preaching and proselytising
As we have seen, Tower Hill has long been a place of public speaking and proclamations. Tubby’s first visit was to a watch John Burns address the crowds. It was second only to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park as a place for people to stand and proselytise. After the Chaplin warehouse was pulled down, the new terrace was the place to be. I believe Toc H had it’s own stand but I have not seen any photographic evidence of this. All Hallows padre Tom Savage was certainly one of those who spoke on the Hill addressing listeners and hecklers alike as “mate”.
Donald Soper, Baron Soper, was another regular crowd puller, on the Hill. Toc H member Roy Tindle recalls the crowd particularly enjoyed his arguments with a local window cleaner, a communist prone to misquoting Marx. Soper could always correct the mistakes, but in good humour. He started on the Hill in 1927. and was there every Wednesday at 12.30 until not long before his death in 1998. He stood on the low wall between All Hallows and the Hill.
“Get up on that wall and clap your hands guv” was the advice he was given when he asked how to start his first open air meeting on the Hill
“Tower Hill presents a magnificent opportunity. There is no place where the faith of a Christian can be tested and I believe, so amply justified as in the open air. I am sure that behind the vast majority of the questions lies a genuine and profound need. Nothing less than the full gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ will meet that need.” Donald Soper – Question Time On Tower Hill (1935)
Huge demonstrations assembled on the Hill. Perhaps the most famous was in October1936 when the British Union of Fascists assembled on the Hill preparing to march through the East End. Anti-fascists assembled in the Minories to stop them and the police made them disperse to the west. The so called Battle of Cable Street was more between anarchists and police than anything else.
Royal proclamations were also made on the Hill when a Yeoman warder would emerge from the Tower to announce a royal birth or some such.
Religious services were often held there, usually with some Toc H connection and the Bishop of London launched Tubby and Toc H’s Earthquake Mission in March 1924.
The Toc H and All Hallows community on the Hill was honoured by several royal visits over the years. The first significant one was probably on the 11th July 1926 when the Duchess of York – Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later best known to us the Queen Mother – visited New June at 50 Great Tower Street.
In December 1927 she visited All Hallows again to deposit a banner she had brought from Australia on behalf of the Australian LWH. This was part of the annual Birthday Party celebrations.
In December 1928 Queen Mary visited All Hallows and was shown the Prince of Wales’ Lamp on the Croke tomb.
It was the Duchess of York again in December 1932 visiting All Hallows to unveil some memorial windows and lay-up the late Lord Plumer’s pennon (His personal ensign). Afterwards she visited Talbot House and tried out the skittle alley though she said the cheese was too heavy and handed it straight back to Tubby saying “It needs someone with a heftier arm than mine to throw it”
But it was perhaps her third visit on the 22nd February 1934 that was the most newsworthy. The visit was to open the new hostel at 28 Great Tower Street. Her words were “May it prove a ‘house beautiful’ in every sense of the word, and bring rest, refreshment and inspiration to all who come within its doors”
After the ceremony she went to No 7 and joined them for lunch in the basement restaurant. She insisted on eating what was the standard menu of Vegetable soup, Steak and Kidney pudding, Pineapple Pudding and coffee (1s & 6d in total please ma’am). She also met Alison Macfie’s dog Magnus, later a stalwart of Orkney, and then went to All Hallows to visit the undercroft.
On the 11th March 1937 it was her mother-in-law, Queen Mary though by then a widow and the Queen Mother, who was shown round the undercroft at All Hallows before visiting Wakefield House, the Children’s Beach, and the Tower Hill Improvement site on Tower Hill where some warehouses were due to be pulled down. The trip took one and a half hours and was informal. She chatted with three Toc H workers home on leave from West Africa where they worked in the leper colonies.
The Duchess of York was now Queen when made a private visit to the Hill in May 1938 and unveiled the plaque to Lord Wakefield on the front of Wakefield House. Beforehand she visited All Hallows and was shown the undercroft and the treasury. Then she was taken to the new, but not yet occupied, LWH HQ in Crutched Friars. Queen Mum made a visit to Crutched Friars (Date?). They painted the rear wall of Fenchurch Street Station white for the occasion; it still peels to this day. After the ceremony at Wakefield House she went to look at some newly uncovered wall then through to The Crescent where she visited the recently opened Seamark (Owned by the Wakefield Trust), and finally to the playground built on the site of an old warehouse. Finally she drove past the newly established Wakefield Gardens
In November 1938 the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, President of the LWH, opened their new HQ at Crutched Friars.
In July 1939 the Duke of Kent visited Wakefield House during an informal tour of Toc H centres of the Hill. Lord Wakefield and Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey, newly appointed Governor of South Australia were present along with Tubby of course.
On the 19th July 1948 the Queen laid the foundation stone of the new north aisle at All Hallows – the silver trowel she used is with the All Hallows plate. A year later – on the 14th July 1949 – her mother in law, Queen Mary attended the reopening before having tea at Talbot House and meeting some of the Winant volunteers.
In February 1950 the Queen visited Toc H on Tower Hill during a brief London visit down from Sandringham
There were of course other visits with several royals attending service at All Hallows for example but the above covers many of the main visits to the Hill.
Getting Things Done Part 3
With the long-running lunch club closing in March 1968 and with the hostels changing, it was left to Tower Hill branch to take the lead in the activities of Toc H on and around the Hill. To be fair, at this point the branch consisted mostly of current and former residents of Talbot House.
As well as the Mobile Action Group mentioned earlier, in the sixties and seventies, the branch continued to be active. At this time it mostly consisted of current and past hostel residents. A Blind Club was held fortnightly and the same club were taken on as annual seaside trip and had a Christmas Dinner.
The long-running lunch club finally ended around 1970 and things were starting to change on the Hill.
By 1972 the branch met in Crutched Friars and one of their jobs was to repair sheets for Roland House the Scout HQ in Stepney. By 1980 they had become the EC & Tower Hill Joint branch and that same year the London Weekend Project Group established there to co-ordinate work for the Marks residents in London (Putney Kennington, and Hackney still survived as well as the Talbot House itself.
Tim Day, who runs the Toc H facebook group, was a Long Term Volunteer at Talbot House in 1978/9 and a member of the branch.
Of course, perhaps the biggest piece of work taking place on the Hill was that which Peter East was doing with the Bengali community including the hostel at no. 7 The Crescent which opened in 1973. If you want to know more about this work then you can do no better than read Ken Prideaux-Brune’s book A Kind of Love Affair (From Brick Lane to Bangladesh) but look out for a special blog next April on the centenary of Peter East’s birth.
As well as the valuable work done by Toc H, the Hill was also the scene for some interesting ceremonies and festivals.
The Roman Pageant
Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus was appointed Procurator of Roman Britain following Boudicca’s rebellion. He is renowned for tempering the Roman punishment of the rebels as he felt it would just escalate the hostilities. He died in London in 65AD and his wife Julia arranged his funerary monument. The stones of the monument were later reused in the City wall and uncovered in two parts; the first in 1852 and the second in 1935 when the London Underground substation was being built. These original stones are in the British Museum but in 1937 Tubby arranged for a reproduction of the stones to be installed in the shadow of the wall in Wakefield Gardens.
In the fifties, Tubby and Toc H organised an annual pageant to commemorate the Classicianus. Barclay Baron normally played the Roman Procurator whilst his wife (Julia?) played Julia. Romans were portrayed by various Marksmen (Mostly from Mark III in Hackney) whilst the Iceni were provided by Scouts and Guides who came down from Norfolk.
Also known as Julia Commemoration, as the pageant played out Tubby would “ bustle from one corner to another with an ADC in his slipstream”
The first pageant took place on Saturday 1st November 1958 and a big one was planned for 1961 to commemorate the 190th anniversary of Classicianus’ arrival. Forty Scouts and rangers travelled down from Norfolk and Colchester for 1961 event. The Norfolk Scouts and Guides laid wreaths at the Classicianus stone prompting one passer-by to write to the Old Codgers (Daily Mirror questions team) in 1961 asking who still cared for a long-dead Roman Procurator. If only they knew!
It was followed in the evening by an Evensong tribute to Inky Bean at All Hallows (Inky died that weekend) and some members also took advantage of visiting the new HQ at 15 Trinity Square. Many readers of this blog will also like to know that this was the occasion that a certain young man called John Burgess first met Tubby Clayton.
I’m not sure when the last was held. The replica Classicianus monument was replaced in the 70s or 80s and can now be seen from the terrace of the CitizenM hotel
Tubby was also responsible for another Roman tribute on the Hill. In Wakefield Gardens there stands a stature of the Roman Emperor Trajan. The story goes that Tubby found a statue of a Roman Emperor in a Southampton scrap metal merchants yard in the fifties. Unfortunately it was not an original piece but probably a late eighteenth century Italian copy which may be Trajan with the body of Augustus. It was placed in Wakefield Gardens in 1968 though has been shifted about. The only missing part of this story is knowing what on earth
The pageant was just one of many Toc H events that took place on the Hill. The birthday festivals each December were usually held at somewhere like the Royal Albert Hall but there would always be a service or two at All Hallows and of course, Toc H folk would bustle to and fro between there Talbot House, Crutched Friars and elsewhere. Particular anniversaries also boasted special Festivals and some of the action took place on the Hill.
Festival ’70 – the 55th Anniversary event in 1970 – included an informal gathering in the moat (Sat 20/6) an At Home on Tower Hill (21/6) a Eucharist at All Hallows, and an art exhibition in the Tate & Lyle Room of Talbot House. The 1975 Festival and Festival ’80 also had activities on the Hill.
One fun event that began on Tower Hill was the April 1965 London to Poperinge Race. Tubby fired a massive and ancient pistol on the Hill (Well he held it up and a colleague popped a paper bag) to begin a race by pairs of young Toc H members to get to Poperinge on £6 passing through Toc H check points in Dover and Ostend or Calais.
We should also mention two non-Toc H events that Tubby was keen to promote. These were the triennial Beating of the Bounds ceremony where the Tower Liberties area surrounding the Tower of London and the neighbouring parish of All Hallows both parade round their boundaries beating them with a stick to ‘mark’ their territory. When the processions of bound-beaters meet, they take part in a mock confrontation commemorating a riot that happened on one occasion in 1698. There is a fabulous photo in the undercroft at All Hallows where a choir boy is suspended by his ankles from a boat so he can beat the boundary that runs along the centre of the river Thames.
The other ancient tradition that was actually revived by Tubby is the Ceremony of Knolly’s Rose. The Company of Watermen and Lightermen is based at its Hall at St Mary-at-Hill and leads the ceremony. It starts at All Hallows-by-the-Tower and makes its way to the garden at Seething Lane where the rose is cut. It is then placed on an altar cushion and carried in procession to the Mansion House where it is presented to the Lord Mayor. The escort for the rose consists of the Master of the Company, the Verger of All Hallows-by-the-Tower accompanied by the Vicar, Churchwardens, and Beadle and optionally by a few company members in period dress each holding an old-style oar.
Tubby’s last years on the Hill
As we have seen in this long and wandering article, Tubby and the Hill were firmly entwined from his first visit with his father to see John Burns address the crowd through his passionate quest to make Tower Hill a better public space, to his final days living in his Trinity Square flat still active and busy to the last. Tubby retired as vicar of All Hallows in 1962 but continued to do much for Toc H. He achieved his dream of getting Toc H headquarters on the Hill and just lived long enough to see it getting ready to depart again.
As we know, Tubby left the Hill in December 1972 and HQ moved to Wendover a couple of years after that. Whilst All Hallows still stands proud the rest of Toc H on Tower Hill was more or less reduced to a few blue plaques and a lot of memories.
And there we are. What started as an update to a four page pamphlet produced several years ago to accompany a tour of Tower Hill, turned into this opus. It was a complex journey as we manoeuvred around Tower Hill and its surrounds in all directions and through time as well. If you have stayed with it until the end then well done, and thank you.
Let us finish with a summary by way a decorative map drawn by calligrapher Maisie Rose Sherley (1920-2008) and of a master aerial photo showing where many of the buildings discussed are situated..
A note about photo copyrights
Now the internet is ubiquitous, it is easy to come across photographs that one would like to use in the blog that have no copyright attribution with them. I do try and establish where they originate and if necessary seek approval to use them. If I am aware that they are under copyright then I do not use them without the appropriate clearance. Sadly this rarely occurs if a fee is required as this blog is my hobby and I already spend a lot keeping it online and in the course of my research so I cannot often afford to licence photos as well. This is particularly annoying where certain agencies wish to charge a small fortune for photos that are actually in the public domain but difficult to get hold of except through them. You know the agencies I mean – their watermarks are everywhere.
If I enquire about using a photo and the copyright owner says no then of course I will not use it.
The problems arise when it is unclear who owns the copyright or publishing rights of any image. As I said I do make efforts to try and find this out but it is frequently impossible. I may then decide to go ahead and use that image anyway as it usefully illustrates part of the blog. I do this in good faith as there is no commercial aspect to my blog. If a copyright holder wishes me to remove an image I will of course do so immediately. It is not my intent to maliciously infringe anyone’s creative rights.
This somewhat epic journey of discovery couldn’t have happened without the help of some wonderful people. I particularly wish to thank John Burgess; Ken Prideaux-Brune; Martin Rivett; Roy Tindle; Michael DiSanto; Carrie Reid; Jeremy Racher; Georgina Blackmore; Bronwyn Gaffney; and Andrew John Saint; and also all those whose earlier recollections and memories were pulled from the multitude of sources I consulted.
Of these sources The Journal and Point 3 were of course most useful but Alison Macfie’s two volumes on the LWH were also very much appreciated as, of course, was The Pageant of Tower Hill. All the books listed in the Further Reading section below helped immensely.
Of the dozens of websites visited then Find My Past with it’s access to the British Newspaper library was invaluable but mention should also be made of The Times archive, Ancestry, A London Inheritance, and numerous facebook groups with a historical interest in the area covered.
I don’t write academic texts that are flooded with citations, footnotes, or endnotes but I am extremely grateful to all those who contributed information directly or indirectly, in great or small quantity and offer my own work freely to those who may wish to consult it in the course of their own research.
A Kind of Love Affair (From Brick Lane to Bangladesh) – Kenneth Prideaux-Brune (Toc H) 1985
The Pageant of Tower Hill – P.B. Clayton & B/R. Leftwich (Longmans) November 1934
(An abridged version – Tower Hill Regained was later published and is also available in pamphlet form)
The Impudent Dreamer – Melville Harcourt
Talbot House and Tower Hill 1939-1945 – A wonderful 24 page pamphlet produced by Toc H about the work of 42 during the war
The Curious History of the Toc H Women’s Association and The Further History of the Toc H Women’s Association – ABS Macfie