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Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

1025 of 1170 nominations


Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

Is this an icon?


Tolpuddle Martyrs' Tree

In 1833 George Loveless set up a Friendly Society of Agricultural Workers in Tolpuddle, Dorset. You paid a shilling to join and swore an oath in front of a skeleton never to reveal the union’s secrets. The aim was to protest against harsh labour laws and terrible wages. Working together would make these men stronger.

A meeting was held on the village green under a large sycamore tree. Six of the labourers, including George and his brother James, were arrested and put on trial. The charge was “administering an unlawful oath”, but this was really the government’s way of suppressing the beginnings of the trade union movement. In March 1834, the “Martyrs”, as the six were called, were transported to Australia for 7 years. Public outcry was immense: a petition was signed by quarter of a million people and there was a march down Whitehall. The men were pardoned and the government even had to pay their fare home! The “Martyrs’ Tree” still grows on the village green, a place of pilgrimage for everyone who wishes to honour these remarkable men.


Your comments

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 flight for social justice and equality.

Brendan Barber

The Tolpuddle Martyrs symbolise the birth of English trade unionism. Their deportation to Australia was a catalyst for protest which led to the recognition of the workers right to form Trade Unions.
Michael Griffin



I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer