The Clayton Centre

The Clayton Centre History

 

Many of you may be aware of a community hall which stands back from the road behind a fence in Barnet Road opposite the Magnet Home Improvement Centre. Others of you will know this as the Toc H hall and some of you will have seen it change to The Clayton Centre.

For those of you who are interested in the history of this hall, it is relevant to say something about the history of the organisation called Toc H.

The origin of Toc H and the reason for its strange name go back to the 1914-18 war.  In 1915, in a town called Poperinghe in Belgium, an Army Padre was asked to set up a place of refuge for battle weary troops coming from and going to the front lines held by the allies near Ypres (Ieper). His name was Rev. Philip (Tubby) Clayton. He found a large house which came to be known as Talbot House in memory of one of Tubby’s friends, Gilbert Talbot killed at Ypres. Troops referred to Talbot House by its initials in ‘signalling language’ as Toc H. The house was a ‘haven of peace’ in the war torn area and all ranks were on an equal footing once within its walls. The motto was ‘Abandon rank all ye who enter here’. In the attic there was, and still is, a chapel where countless soldiers attended communion before going back to the front.

After the war Tubby was determined to carry on the traditions of Toc H as a voluntary social service movement in this country. In November 1919 the organisation was founded and the first Toc H house was established in Queen Anne’s Gate, London in 1920. It received a Royal Charter in 1922 with the patron being the then Prince of Wales. The movement grew over the years to around 12000 members with 870 worldwide branches. The symbol of Toc H is a lamp similar to those used by the early Christians. The lamp was lit at meetings to signify bringing change from sadness to joy, despair to hope and darkness to light.

In 1929 a Toc H group was formed in Potters Bar which in 1945 grew to Branch status which entitled it to its own lamp. The movement was very active during this time and built a hall in Darkes Lane in 1937 on land donated by a Major King in 1935.

In 1964 the Little Heath and Potters Bar Branches were amalgamated and in 1969 the Darkes Lane site was acquired by Potters Bar district council who in 1971 offered a plot in Barnet Road with money to build a new hall. In 1975 the new hall was opened by Cecil Parkinson MP.  The new hall was used most days by various organisations and for private functions.

This situation continued until about the year 2000 when declining membership led to the amalgamation of the Hoddesdon and Potters Bar & Little Heath Branches and the Cuffley Token projects Group into the Lea Valley Branch. The Token Projects group had been running events for disabled, elderly and those in care for a number of years. They also held summer camps for children. The money to fund these activities came from the Hoddesdon Branch from their charity shop in Hoddesdon near the clock tower and the hiring of the Potters Bar Hall.

Meanwhile Toc H Central was in financial difficulties and needed to sell assets. This initially meant the sale of the charity shop (a grade 2 listed building) and latterly the Potters Bar hall. This had the effect of cutting off funding for the projects so members of the Branch negotiated with Hertsmere to lease the hall under a new management called The Clayton Centre to carry on the traditions of the old Toc H movement which sadly is now in administration.

The Clayton Centre is now taking bookings for the hall which has now been fully refurbished now has a new kitchen. You may be interested to know that we are holding all the events that Toc H held plus an additional one this Summer for bereaved children in partnership with The Isabel Hospice from the funds of Potters Bar Hall after running costs have been paid.