This Day in History – March 18th, 1834

Tolpuddle Martyrs' memorial sculpture.

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ memorial sculpture.

Each July in the village of Tolpuddle, in Dorset, England, a festival and rally is held in honor of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The event is a celebration of trade unionism and labour politics organized by the Dorset Committee of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers, now a section of Unite the Union, and the Trades Union Congress (TUC). The festival is usually held in the third week of July, and features a parade of banners from many trade unions, a memorial service, speeches and music. Each year a wreath is laid at the grave of James Hammett, one of the martyrs, in the churchyard of Tolpuddle parish church.

martyrs painting in T&G Eastbourne

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as a trade-specific benefit society. At the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the predominant role of trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were subsequently on March 18th, 1834 sentenced to penal transportation to Australia.

Flourish 3

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