In the 1830s, life for farm workers was hard and they could not bear more cuts to their pay. In Dorset they organised a union to fight back but this brought harsh punishments. People around the country campaigned and won the freedom of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
In 1834, farm workers in west Dorset formed a trade union. Unions were lawful and growing fast but six leaders of the union were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for taking an oath of secrecy. The Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum tells the harrowing tale of the Martyrs arrest, trial and punishment, leading to the foundation of modern day trade unionism.
Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival
There has been an annual gathering since the 1930s. It began as a Sunday afternoon event with wreaths laid on the grave of James Hammett, followed by a procession of banners and speeches about the Martyrs. Today, the annual event sees thousands of trade unionists from around the world descend on the small village of Tolpuddle, to celebrate the legacy they left behind.