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the Old Crown Court and CellsA group of six men, the Tolpuddle Martyrs founded The Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in order to protest against reduced rates of pay. The society founded by George Loveless consisted of James Loveless, Brine James Hammett, Thomas and John Stansfield.
At the time, the basic earnings of a labourer ensured that his family would subsist at starvation level and most households saw all members, including children going out to work to provide the essentials. The Tolpuddle Martyrs sought a wage increase from six shillings to ten shillings a week, an idea which filled James Frampton with fear. A country gentleman from an established family, James Frampton feared for the comfortable status quo and wrote to Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne quoting an obscure law from 1797 in complaint about the group. Although the Reform Act of 1832 recognised the validity of trade unions and Frampton's objection was based on a law which regulated sailors, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were convicted and transported to Australia. It would take a petition of 250,000 signatures and a 30,000 strong march before their sentences were remitted. Popular heroes, they were granted a pardon in 1836 and continued to inspire the Trade Union movement for centuries. Following their release they returned home but four of the group later emigrated to Canada.
At the Shire Hall you will see the courtroom in which the trial, presided over by "Hangman?" Judge Jeffreys was held. The courtroom has been preserved in its original state and you can also visit the cells where the prisoners were held. The court room is also famous for Judge Jeffreys Bloody Assize. On High West Street, there's also Judge Jeffreys' Lodgings, the former residence of this notorious judge now believed by some to be haunted by his ghost.
The Annual Tolpuddle Martyrs Rally is held in the third week of July in Tolpuddle. The festival combines speeches current to the Trade Movement and incorporates music and art.
Address: 58-60 High West Street
Postcode: DT1 1UZ
Town/city or near: Dorchester