The Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

A large tree in summer, next to a small wooden hut

In 1833 six agricultural labourers met at a Sycamore tree in Tolpuddle, Dorset to discuss their poor wages and living conditions. The men were arrested in 1834 for swearing a secret oath as part of the formation of a union and later became known as The Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Following a trial at nearby Dorchester the men were sentenced to seven years penal labour in Australia. Mass public protest followed the sentencing and subsequently the men were pardoned and freed.

The 320 year-old Sycamore tree where the Tolpuddle Martyrs met has become a symbolic birthplace of the Trade Unions movement.

The National Trust looks after the tree and in 2019 we are working with artist Bob and Roberta Smith to look at how ordinary people, such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, achieve the extraordinary and create change. This forms part of our People's Landscapes national programme, working with contemporary artists with Turner prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, as artistic advisor.

We are also working with the Tolpuddle Museum and the Old Chapel Trust in Tolpuddle to share the story of the martyrs in the anniversary year of the Peterloo Massacre.

Paint Freedom at Shire Hall

From 27 July to 6 September, visit the Paint Freedom exhibition at Shire Hall, Dorchester, featuring work by National Trust commissioned artist Bob and Roberta Smith and members of the public and school pupils. Discount for National Trust members.