|Violence on picket lines and bloody
battles between striking workers and police would seem to have little in
common with a little village green in Dorset, yet beneath a giant
sycamore at Tolpuddle six farm laborers banded together in 1831
and made a pact which was the beginning of Trade Unionism in England.
There was no violence, they were good men and had deep Christian beliefs, but decided to ask for 3 extra shillings a week to 'save their families from starvation and utter degradation'.
A judge at Dorchester sent George Loveless and his companions to a penal colony in Australia for 7 years, 'not for anything they had done, but as an example to others'. They were later pardoned.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs contributed a proud chapter in the history of Trade Unionism and in 1934 the T.U.C. erected six memorial cottages in the village. Once a year, leading socialist politicians, under colorful banners, march past the green where now a commemorative seat and shelter have been erected.
In 1936, at a memorial arch outside the Methodist Chapel, David Lloyd George laid a wreath - in fact, the famous former Prime Minister laid it several times until each press photographer was satisfied. Just before the Second World War the famous actress, Dame Sybil Thorndyke and her husband Lewis Casson, who were appearing in a play called 'The Six Men of Dorset', came and enacted some of the scenes around the Martyr's Tree.
Hard to believe that this lovely village of thatch, with its meadows watered by the gentle river Piddle, and a church with Norman remains, is one of the most famous villages in the world