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The Historic Tale of Tolpuddle Old Chapel: Uncovering the Martyrs' Story

The Dorset village of Tolpuddle has long been associated with social justice and now the original Old Chapel has been renovated to continue that tradition, to serve the community and to tell the story.

In an earlier newsletter we explained why Tolpuddle is so important to workers and to the Methodist Church: six labourers (including 2 Methodist local preachers) who became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, protested about their low wages and were deported for it. Their efforts were the beginnings of the Trades Union movement and at the annual Tolpuddle Festival Union representatives process through the village with their banners.

The Old Chapel, made of cob, was built by local labourers. Its opening in 1818 was greeted with hostility and stone throwing by villagers and the Anglicans, so it is good to note that Methodists and Anglicans agreed a local Covenant in 2012 to work together on issues of social justice.

The Old Chapel can be visited every Wednesday and Friday, 2.00-4.00pm   and there are regular talks on social justice and local issues; a current series covers Tolpuddle Family Lives. There are educational resources for school visits and the excellent website of the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust gives lots more information.

The Dorchester New Hardy Players are presenting the story of the Martyrs from 13-16 June, processing during the performance to the courtroom in Old Shire Hall where the original trial took place. For details and booking see 

This year’s Tolpuddle Festival will take place on 19-21 July 2024 with big name speakers, music and the service in the (newer) Methodist chapel on the Sunday. EW MCCARTHY





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