14 April 2020
A crowdfunding campaign has been started to try to keep a historic WWI soldiers club open.
In December 1915, British army chaplains founded a club in Poperinge, Flanders. Their goal was to create a home from home for over half a million weary and homesick troops that were in the area. Here, they could meet up with friends regardless of rank, have a cup of tea, write a letter home, enjoy a well-kept garden or play the piano. In the attic, a chapel offered some comfort and provided hope for the men who had to return to the trenches. The club was so successful that soon after the war, some 500 TocH clubs sprang up throughout the Commonwealth.
Since the reopening of the club in 1931, it has served as a living museum where guests can also stay the night. Every year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists find a warm home from home and a cup of tea, like the soldiers back then. It’s an authentic British pearl from the war years. Last winter, work on a new permanent exhibition commenced. In A House of People countless new tales of rich history are told linked to some 500 artefacts from the collection of the House, most of these never having been shown to the public before.
Since 1930, Talbot House has been owned by a small, non-profit charity and run mostly by volunteers. The major investment in a new permanent exhibition, paid out of the charity’s own pocket, and the forced closure due to the corona outbreak, has left it without an income. A historic House of more than 250 years old requires almost constant maintenance and renovation. As things stand at the moment, the charity thinks it will be a struggle to make it till the end of the year.
Simon Louagie, Talbot House Manager, explained the situation: ‘We certainly have no intention to throw in the towel easily these days. A new campaign has been launched to save the House. In the first few hours, some €6,000 has been donated. The funds will help us to survive while we have to remain closed, keep the House in good shape and help us to bridge the gap till we have sufficient income from visitors and guests again. In exchange for a donation, we offer all sorts of rewards ranging from free overnights stays and story tours to free breakfasts and membership of our Talbotousian family. In the meantime, we are trying to keep the club open virtually with lots of films and stories of the House on our social media channels, so that everyone around the world can enjoy the club. We hope you too can help us convince people to support our appeal so that we can preserve this precious piece of heritage for future generations. We remain available for questions, photos and interviews. The crowdfund campaign can be found on GoFundMe.’
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