Things to do

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival

Tolpuddle sounds like something out of a Beatrix Potter tale and on first glance it lives up to this image but, digging deeper, its history is significant enough to fill its own book.

About Tolpuddle

This sleepy little village is perfect for a relaxed holiday in Dorset but it was the scene of an historic social injustice that paved the way for modern workers’ rights. In 1834 six destitute farm workers were deported for forming a ‘trade union’ under an oath of secrecy. This apparently amounted to mutiny and their resulting punishment caused riots across the country with marches through the capital, petitions and protests. Nowadays, the village is a monument to their plight with preserved TUC (Trades Union Congress) cottages, plaques, National Trust information boards, the Martyrs Inn and every July, the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival.

The main event of this annual celebration is the grand procession, first established on the centenary of the workers’ arrests. Huge banners depicting the events were marched through the streets in a rally supporting workers’ rights but with political shifts and improvements in conditions over the decades, the TUC Secretary modernised and developed the Rally into what we see today.

Festival fun

The festival is now a full weekend of entertainment, with family friendly activities, stalls, music plus a good dose of political debate to keep the origins of the events at the forefront of modern day minds. And there’s definitely an almost patriotic feel bubbling through the throngs, a pride in those workers, a resilience against injustice but overall joy to experience the freedom and fun that the Martyrs’ Festival brings. Make sure you time your attendance to witness the grand procession; it’s a cacophony of happy people and brass bands singing out protest songs. It’s loud, it’s colourful, it’s got moral values at its core. It’s everything a good festival should be.

At the centre of it all, the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum (below) really does the story justice. It’s not your usual dusty little collection of few remaining artefacts that someone felt should be put in glass boxes in a backroom. It’s a bright, modern, technology-driven exhibition with interactive displays among well displayed artefacts with educational tales bringing the arrest, trial and punishment of the Martyrs to life. Do pay a visit when on holiday in Tolpuddle, it’s an interesting insight into how they changed the face of social history but check the Tolpuddle Martyrs website for opening times.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum

The festival will fill up your weekend, but take a look at all the other things to do in Tolpuddle.


More reading

Things to do in Tolpuddle

Things to do in Tolpuddle

This ancient Dorset town is so tranquil and laid back, R&R is practically guaranteed so you can kick back and zone out. But if you like to occupy your time away, there are plenty of things to do in Tolpuddle.

Things to do 2 years ago Katie Chown
Sampling the River Cottage Food Festival

Sampling the River Cottage Food Festival

Itʼs not what you would call a ʻhugeʼ festival, but itʼs all the more special because of that. If anything it feels like a huge family garden party, if only I had that garden!

Things to do 6 years ago James Chubb
Blood Moons and Dark Sky Tourism

Blood Moons and Dark Sky Tourism

When on holiday, consider a slightly different point of view. Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine and come and check out the latest in night-time activities.

Things to do 4 years ago Lizzie H
5 Family Easter Days out

5 Family Easter Days out

Wherever you end up in the South West this Easter there are things to do that will entertain all.

Things to do 2 years ago Becky Bye