Visitors to the Dorset village can listen to Maxine Peake tell the story of the agricultural workers transported to Australia after forming a union

Tim Lezard Europe, UK,
Dorset Equity members play the roles of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the South West TUC's Tolpuddle Trail

Dorset Equity members play the roles of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the South West TUC’s Tolpuddle Trail

The South West TUC today launches an audio visual trail in Tolpuddle to take visitors back in time to when the Martyrs were transported to Australia for forming a trade union.

The project, supported by a £38,7000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, allows visitors to listen to the story of the six Dorset farmworkers as they stroll through the village.

The tour, which lasts around an hour, starts with Maxine Peake, star of Silk and The Village, declaring: “Looking around at the quiet idyllic village and peaceful countryside, it’s hard to imagine that this was once a place of suffering and unrest. And that events which took place here in 1834 still intrigue and inspire people today. ”

The tour stops at various points in the village where scenes from the story will be recreated on mobile phones or tablets by members of Equity’s Dorset branch playing the Martyrs and their wives.

Visitors will be able to stand in front of the famous Martyrs’ Tree and view a re-enactment of the 19th Century farmworkers discussing how to resist further pay cuts, and instead of seeing just a plaque marking where the secret oath was taken, people will be able to see a short film of the ceremony.

There is also a special version of the story for younger visitors.

South West TUC Regional Secretary Nigel Costley said: “We’re very excited about bringing the Tolpuddle story to life. The Martyrs joined a union after consecutive pay cuts – a situation that will resonate with many people today.

“The Martyrs’ tale is one of courage, resistance and, ultimately, success as they won their freedom after a nationwide campaign. Importantly, they also enshrined in law the right to join a trade union.”

The Tolpuddle Martyrs app can be downloaded from the App store.

Details of this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival are here.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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