Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments

Me and My Icons

25 of 34 nominations


Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

General Secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber’s choice of icon reflects perfectly his passionate beliefs in workers’ rights.

“In the early 1800s, the ancient sycamore tree in the centre of Tolpuddle was the meeting place for agricultural workers. Faced with further cuts to their miserable wages, Dorset farm workers formed a union. They rejected the machine wrecking and petty violence of previous years. By 1834, unions were legal and gaining support from industrial workers. But the idea was too much for the local squire and landowners in Tolpuddle.

“Arrested and quickly tried on a charge of taking an illegal oath six farm workers were sentenced to seven years’ transportation.

“The fledgling union movement rallied thousands of supporters across the country in protest. The campaign won free pardons and the return from Australia.

“Since then, the great tree in Tolpuddle has been an icon for the labour movement. It is a place of pilgrimage and celebration for the fight for social justice and equality.”

Read more about and vote on the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

Image of Brendan Barber © topfoto.co.uk

Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

Brendan Barber

Trade unionist

Brendan Barber has spent most of his career at the TUC where he started work in 1975. He’s been a driving force in the TUC’s ‘United Against Racism’ campaign and in initiatives to help boost union membership and build partnership-style relations between employers and unions. An avid Everton fan, he lives in North London with his partner and two teenage daughters.