The former chapel, listed as Grade II* by Historic England, was built in 1818 as a Methodist chapel. Its first service was met with an angry mob throwing stones at the preacher from Weymouth. The chapel probably remained in use until the mid C19 prior to the new Methodist chapel being built in 1862.
Research suggests that two of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Thomas Standfield and George Loveless, were involved in the construction of the building. The chapel was used by at least four of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs and it is believed that George Loveless was a lay preacher in the chapel.
The building is mainly built of cob on brick and stone/flint bases. The roof has double roman clay tiles. The original door leading from the road is blocked with an infill window with a boarded hatch above it. There is a beautiful original central pointed arched window opening on the rear wall which is blocked with brickwork. The building is thought to be little altered from how it looked in the 1830s, although it may have had a thatched roof at that time and the entrance door has moved from the front to the eastern side.
In 2014, a village community group formed the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust (TOCT) to renovate the building and bring it back into public use.
In October 2016, it was announced that TOCT had received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its renovation project. The project will renovate and extend the former chapel to provide the potential for the appropriate re-use of the building as a ‘quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village’, for visitors, and to provide the location for activities, exhibitions and community use. Our aim is to tell the story of the building and how it reflects the lives and hardships of the people who built it, as well as their desire for change.
HLF has awarded development funding of £63,700 to help us make progress with our plans. This initial funding, together with in-principle support for the delivery stage of £329,300, allows the Trust to produce detailed plans for the renovation and repair of the former chapel, as well as creating interpretation and community engagement activities to tell the history of the building and its connection to the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Although the project has in-principle support from HLF for the delivery stage of £329,300 TOCT still need to raise £200,000 for the delivery stage. To support the project, find out about future events, become a ‘Friend of TOCT’ or to get involved go to the TOCT website Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust