My Favourite History Place - Poperinge

Historian feature

By Richard Hughes, published 1st August 2016

A town near Ypres

Poperinge is a cheerful place. It is a cheerfulness which defies its location yet resonates with its history. It is a small town just ten kilometres west of Ypres and all around is the debris and memorabilia of slaughter. Yet somehow Poperinge is a cheerful place. It is a community which bustles with purposeful activity. In the Grote Markt there are queues at the bus stop, the shops and cafés are busy with customers, everyone seems out and about involved in business and those who are not sit in the cafés watching the world go by. Even in the midst of the Great War Poperinge was a cheerful place; indeed that was its purpose for Poperinge was ‘Pop’, the location of legend which provided thankful periods of pleasure and relief to the soldiers living and dying in the trenches close by. Edmund Blunden called it ‘one of the seven wonders of the world.’ It was an oasis of sanity in the midst of carnage. Life in West Flanders is gentler now but Poperinge still maintains the atmosphere of a place concerned with the pleasures of life.

The most famous visitor attraction in Poperinge is Talbot House which is just a stone’s throw from the Grote Markt. In this tall, handsome townhouse set against the road the Reverend Tubby Clayton established a centre of respite for troops of any rank; it truly was the ‘Every Man’s Club’ , the term which is still proudly proclaimed on the notice above the door...

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