The First World War and the Lambeth Librarian

This blog post continues the series documenting items in the Library’s collections relating to the First World War. Library holdings includes miscellaneous personal papers of Claude Jenkins (1877-1959), who became Librarian in 1910. He remained in post until 1952, being (according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) ‘constitutionally disinclined to surrender preferment’: he held various other posts alongside the Librarianship, eventually becoming Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He was also chaplain to Archbishop Davidson and assisted in the revision of the coronation service.

His papers include his ration book from the First World War (MS 1641 ff. 130-139v), recording his address at St Martin’s Place just off Trafalgar Square.


The book includes coupons for lard and sugar, and documents purchases at various provision shops including Fortnum and Mason.


Jenkins’ papers as Librarian (LR/J) form part of the current project to catalogue the Library Records for the period 1785-1953.

The First World War and Percy Dearmer

This is a further blog post in a series to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) was an Anglican clergyman, whose papers were gifted to the Library in 2003. A historian and artist as well as a priest, Dearmer championed the integral role of art in religious practice in his writings such as ‘The Parsons’ Handbook’, in his establishment of the Warham Guild for the design of vestments and ornaments, and through his post as professor of ecclesiastical art at King’s College, London (1919-36). He also made significant contributions to the quality of church music through his collaborative efforts with Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, and Martin Shaw which produced ‘The English Hymnal’ and ‘Songs of Praise’. The Library’s collection of Dearmer’s papers corroborates this picture of an inspiring and influential figure, even amidst the turmoil and tragedy of World War I.

During the war, Dearmer served as a chaplain for the British Red Cross ambulance unit in Serbia. There, in 1915, his first wife died of enteric fever. That same year, his son Christopher died of wounds received at Gallipoli. Correspondence between Dearmer and his second wife, Nancy, during the war exemplifies the loss and loneliness he and other men felt while stationed far from home:

You know it does hurt always, being out here…It has helped me to understand what the men at the front are giving – the awful, awful home-sickness that some have had for a year & a half: I think the men mind it more than the actual hardships and even dangers. (MS 4910 f. 43)

Portrait of Dearmer inscribed to his second wife (MS 4909 f. 9)


Percy Dearmer remained optimistic, however, and his intimate and personal letters to his wife reveal the ways in which he, like so many others during the war, found comfort in thoughts of his loved ones and in the very act of writing to them:

 Every thought of you is sweetness to me, and everything I do has you at the back of it; and I never am really away from you for a minute. (MS 4910 f. 16)

After the war, Percy Dearmer became secretary, and later chairman, to the League of Arts. In 1931 he was nominated to a canonry at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes were interred following his death in 1936.

“A journey unique”: Archbishop Davidson at the Western Front

May 2016 marks the centenary of Archbishop Randall Davidson’s tour of the Western Front, a journey he described as “unique in my own experience as a man, and I think unique historically in the experience of an Archbishop”. To commemorate Davidson’s visit, Lambeth Palace Library will posting and tweeting extracts from his diary (Davidson 583) and summaries of Davidson’s activities, one hundred years to the day, via its Facebook and Twitter accounts.


Davidson spent 9 days at the Front, from 16 to 24 May, at the invitation of Deputy Chaplain-General Llewellyn Gwynne, and with the “warm concurrence” of Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig. The visit had two principal objectives:

  1. A fact-finding mission, giving Davidson the opportunity to meet with meet the commanders of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.), and to survey almost the entirety of the British-held section of the Western Front, from the military base at Étaples on the French coast, to the Somme (where preparations were continuing for the eponymous battle that was to commence on 1 July).
  2. A morale-boosting tour, to cheer and encourage the chaplains and to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet and talk with ordinary soldiers.


Davidson was profoundly moved by his experiences, and just four days after his return to Lambeth he began dictating to his secretary, Mary Mills, what was to become known as his ‘war diary’, which he supplemented with postcards and maps from the visit.

Davidson diary 1
Davidson’s typsecript ‘war diary’

Though he was kept from the front lines he was never far from danger. On 17 May he visited the shattered town of Ypres, still being regularly shelled by the Germans, donning a steel helmet and carrying a gas mask “ready for use at a moment’s notice”. Davidson was given ample opportunities to observe the ongoing fighting, witnessing a tremendous artillery barrage preceding a successful attack by the Germans on the Vimy Ridge sector. He was:

Constantly impressed when looking across the Front at fighting times by the absence of physical men – guns are firing, shells exploding, and aeroplanes are overhead, and you know that within the few miles which you are looking at there are thousands and thousands of men, but they are all in trenches, and the country sometimes looks as though it were uninhabited. I had not been prepared for this.”

He was also fascinated by the huge logistical operation that kept the British army supplied, noting the huge array of lorries loaded with ammunition, food and other essentials, and was most “amused to find that one of the biggest and most formidable looking of these ranges of cars, turned out on closer inspection to be not great heavy lorries after all, but London omnibuses painted slate colour and looking most imposing and as unlike buses as possible”.

Davidson diary 2
“One felt more & more the fearsomeness of all this going on between Christian peoples”. Davidson made revisions and additions to the typescript in his own hand.

The Archbishop held conferences for the chaplains, one each for the four armies that made up the B.E.F., at which as many of the Church of England chaplains as possible had been gathered, as well chaplains from the Church of Scotland and the English Free Churches. Davidson made it a priority to speak with as many of them as possible, and at the conference at Talbot House in Poperinghe, he recorded that he was “very much struck with the quiet simplicity, and even the unconscious dignity of the chaplains, some of whom I had known quite well; and all of them seemed to me to have ‘grown’ in the best sense”. Davidson also spoke to the troops whenever he could, usually in the hospitals but also those resting from duty on the front line. After meeting a group of soldiers at St. Omer, he wrote of them:

“There was an obvious seriousness which betokened what they had gone through, near Ypres, and might yet have to go through, and it was in a sort of awestruck way that some of them spoke about the fearful fighting in the trenches. No one, they said, could wish to go back to it, though they were quite ready to go when they were wanted, not light-heartedly, but determinedly.”


Davidson’s visit was relatively low-key in comparison to previous episcopal visits to the Front by Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, and Henry Wakefield, Bishop of Birmingham. Those visits had been characterised by preaching marathons and subsequent published accounts that infuriated military commanders. The more circumspect nature of Davidson’s visit was welcomed by Sir Douglas Haig, who, on their meeting at General Headquarters on 20 May, stated: “Visits like yours for quiet consultation with us and for giving stimulus to officers and chaplains, and speaking to the gatherings of men which you come across naturally, are of very real good”.


A scholarly edition of Davidson’s war diary, edited by Michael Snape, appears in From the Reformation to the Permissive Society: A Miscellany in Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Lambeth Palace Library, (Church of England Record Society Volume 18, 2010) and is available for consultation in the Lambeth Palace Library reading room (Classmark: H5051.C4 [R]), or for purchase through Boydell & Brewer.

Talbot House

On 11 December 1915, an ‘Everyman’s Club’ opened in Poperinge, Belgium. Named Talbot House, and soon after shortened to ‘Toc H’ (army jargon for ‘TH’), this was a place of rest for men from the trenches.

The club was founded by Philip Bryard ‘Tubby’ Clayton, an army chaplain, by his superior, Rev Neville Talbot. Whilst there were other rest houses for soldiers, Tubby wanted to create a ‘home from home’ and a place where the men could forget the war they were fighting just five miles away.

Tubby hired an empty house from a merchant in Poperinge. He named the house after Gilbert Talbot, the brother of Neville, who had died in the trenches July that year. Tubby was keen to promote Christianity in the club, which led to him creating a chapel in the attic room of the house.

The attic chapel of Talbot House [MS 1859]
Improvising an altar out of a carpenter’s table found in the shed and other found and donated furniture, Tubby created a space for the soldiers to take communion or pray by themselves. Many soldiers chose to take first communion there. For many heading back to the front, it might also be their last communion.

At Lambeth Palace Library a register is held of communicants and candidates for confirmation at Toc H between 1915 and 1917 (MS 3211). It gives us information about their names, rank, and sometimes regiment and civilian address.

[MS 3211]
Tubby wrote extensively about his experiences in Belgium. During the war he had a continual correspondence with his mother, to whom he describes the exploits of the House (these letters were rediscovered by Tubby after her death, and published in 1932). Not long after the war he began to write memoirs of his time at the House (Clayton, Tales of Talbot House, 1947).

Archbishop Davidson’s passport [Davidson 799]
In May 1916, Archbishop Randall Davidson travelled to Belgium to see the front and meet the soldiers. He made a visit to Talbot House to carry out a confirmation service. In his journal, Archbishop Davidson describes: ‘Guns firing outside… and the men presenting themselves for confirmation with obvious and unabashed earnestness, corresponding with the courage they show in thus coming forward among their fellows’ (Davidson 583 f.16). In turn, Tubby states in a letter to his mother: ‘Cantuar was perfectly delightful, and as simple as a Mission preacher with them’ (Clayton, Letters From Flanders Fields, 1932, p.59).

Communicants in MS 3211

Although thirty-seven men were confirmed that day, Tubby mentions four in particular, although not by name, who were commanded by the recently killed Major Philbey. These four men, we can see from MS 3211, were Sergeant Hazelhurst, Corporal Hollies, Private Wyard and Lance Corporal Field. Within weeks of the confirmation, both Hazelhurst and Wyard had been killed in action (Clayton, 1932, pp.58-59).

The club caused such an impact on men such as these that after the house was closed in 1918 (when German troops were advancing on the area), those who had experienced it wished to maintain the spirit and fellowship of Talbot House, and so the charity Toc H was born. A new Talbot House was opened in London, and hostels were opened for people coming to London for work. Toc H has now developed into an international charity, focused on community work.

Further Reading

Clayton, P.B., Plain Tales From Flanders (Longmans, Green & Co., 1929)

Clayton, P.B., Letters From Flanders (Butler & Tanner Ltd: London, 1932)

Clayton, P.B., Tales of Talbot House (Toc H: London, 1947)

The First World War and Bishop Winnington-Ingram

This is a further blog post in a series to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. We have recently acquired this photograph of Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram (1858-1946), Bishop of London 1901-39, one of a set of photographs of Bishops and other clergy (MS 5069) kindly donated to the Library. Pictured here in uniform, the Bishop was a strong advocate of Britain’s cause during World War One and he visited the Western Front in 1915, the Grand Fleet at Rosyth and Scapa Flow in 1916, and Salonica in 1918. He also served as chaplain to the London Rifle Brigade.

Bishop Winnington-Ingram in uniform
Bishop Winnington-Ingram in uniform

His official papers held here at Lambeth, which are not voluminous in comparison to the length of his episcopate, do not include material relating to the First World War. However, the Library does hold an additional volume (MS 3406) which includes a few letters from leading naval and military commanders of the First World War: Admirals John Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher, John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, and Field Marshal Sir William Robertson. The volume also includes a list of officers confirmed at St. Omer on Palm Sunday 1915, and a two-page printed item by Bishop Winnington-Ingram recounting his impressions of ‘The British Soldier’s Religion’ arising from his visit to the Front. He reflects on over 50 services held in the open air and in cinemas and warehouses, and observes that some of the men waiting to be confirmed had “the mud of the trenches still wet on their puttees”. The Library also holds items which he published in connection with the National Mission of Hope and Repentance, an initiative begun in 1916 to renew the country’s religious life in wartime.

For more information on Library sources for the First World War, please see our research guide, timeline and online catalogues.