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The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ chapel is given hope

06 January 2017


Commemoration: a procession in Tolpuddle celebrating the Tolpuddle Martyrs, in July, 1971

Commemoration: a procession in Tolpuddle celebrating the Tolpuddle Martyrs, in July, 1971

THE one-room former Methodist chapel where the Tolpuddle Martyrs met is to be saved from ruin and restored, to become a “quiet place” for people to sit and think.

The Martrys were six farm workers from Tolpuddle, in Dorset, who were arrested and banished to Australia in 1834 after forming an early trade union to demand higher wages.

Their conviction and transpor­ta­tion prompted a huge outcry and campaign for their release, which was eventually secured in 1836 after the first-ever mass demonstration in the trade-union movement’s history in London.

Little known in the Martyrs’ story is that at least four of the six men regularly met in the tiny chapel, and one of them, George Loveless, is thought to have been a Methodist lay preacher.

The rough structure, which may have been built by hand by two of the Martyrs, long ago fell into disuse and became derelict, featuring on Historic England’s register of sig­nificant listed buildings at risk of being lost to the nation.

But now the charity that owns the chapel, the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust, has won a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £63,700 towards its project to renovate the building and preserve it for poster­ity.

The money will go towards pre­­paring detailed plans for the res­toration, and applications for more grants to cover the cost of the pro­ject, expected to be about £330,000.

The chairman of the Trust, An­­drew McCarthy, told The Guardian: ”We hope our project will reconnect people with the harsh living and working conditions, faith, humility, and simple building techniques of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, as well as ensuring that this wonderful legacy is saved for future generations.”

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