PRESS RELEASE 24th October 2016

Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust (TOCT) has received initial support * from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its renovation project in Tolpuddle, it was announced today. The project aims to renovate the two hundred year old Grade II* former Methodist chapel in Tolpuddle.

Development funding of £63,700 has been awarded to help TOCT progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

Thanks to the support from National Lottery players, the project will ‘renovate and extend the former chapel to provide the potential for the appropriate re-use of the building as a ‘quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village’, for visitors, and to provide the location for activities, exhibitions and community use’.

This round-one funding together with in-principle support for the delivery stage of £329,300 allows the Trust to produce detailed plans for the renovation and repair of the former chapel, as well as creating interpretation and community engagement activities to tell the history of the building and its connection to the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

The property’s heritage significance is intrinsically linked to its development and use by the Tolpuddle Martyrs and its role as a central focus of the early 19th century Methodist circuit in rural Dorset. Research suggests that the original cob structure was built by two of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and their families. It is on Historic England’s At Risk Register.

Commenting on the award, Andrew McCarthy, Chairman of TOCT said:

‘The Trustees of the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust welcome the support of HLF in awarding this grant towards the cost of renovating this unique former chapel.

Since our purchase of this ‘At Risk’ building in 2015, the Trust has received the backing of The Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic England, as well as a Start-Up Grant from HLF.

Numerous organisations and individuals have also contributed to our charity.

This highly significant development funding from HLF will help the Trust move forward to develop our existing proposals to renovate and extend the former chapel and secure match funding. We hope our project will reconnect people with the harsh living and working conditions, faith, humility and simple building techniques of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, as well as ensuring this wonderful legacy is saved for future generations’

Local MP, Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin, congratulated the Trust saying:

“It was a great delight to hear the news of the successful Heritage Lottery Round-One grant to Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust.

Your vision to renovate and extend this wonderful former Methodist chapel will not only provide a unique ‘quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village’, but with its extension, give great flexibility and definitely enhance the potential for wider community use as well as being an additional draw for tourists”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, added:

“We are delighted to be able to support the restoration of Tolpuddle Old Chapel, and the interpretation of its fascinating history, with its close links with the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs.  

The important story of how they established the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, creating a union to negotiate for better wages, and were sentenced to transportation to Australia, will be an important part of the project. The harshness of their sentence caused a national outcry, and the first mass demonstration of trade unionists in London.  There are some wonderful opportunities for local people to be fully involved, both with the project and with the important heritage of their community, so we look forward to seeing the detailed proposals in due course”. 



The former chapel is listed as Grade II* by Historic England.

It was built in 1818 as a Methodist chapel. Research suggests that two of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Thomas Standfield and George Loveless, were involved in the construction of the cob building. The chapel was used by at least four of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs and it is believed that George Loveless was a lay preacher in the chapel.

The building is mainly built of cob on a brick and stone base with flint infills. The roof has double roman clay tiles. The original door leading from the road is blocked with an infill window with a boarded hatch above it. There is a beautiful original central pointed arched window opening on the rear wall which is blocked with brickwork. The building is thought to be little altered from how it looked in the 1830’s, although it may have had a thatched roof at that time.

For the past 150 or so years it has been used for agricultural purposes.

The building is currently, and has been for a number of years, in a poor state of repair and currently is not in use. It is on Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’.

The future

TOCT is committed to sympathetically preserving, renovating and maintaining the Grade II* building as ‘a quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village’.

The project has many aspects including renovation, a new extension, interpretation and learning. The renovation proposals for the former chapel and the designs for the new extension have been developed through many stages and with guidance from the formal approval body, Historic England. Public consultations in 2015 combined with meetings with local schools and stakeholders has developed new ideas for uses, new learning activities and interpretation.

Paul Richold of Architecton, Bristol, has produced initial designs for the building works. Adrian Whittlesea, Artist and TOCT Trustee, has provided artist impressions of the future proposals.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Heritage Grant * applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery



Overwhelming support for Renovation Project

TOCT A2 Artist Impression Prints_Page_1

On Friday 4th and Saturday 5th March, TOCT held a public exhibition on the proposals to renovate and extend the Grade II*former Methodist chapel in Tolpuddle.

The exhibition consisted of 14 display panels showing:

  • The results of last year’s public consultations.
  • The architect’s plans of the exterior and interior of the proposed renovation and extension.
  • Artist’s impressions showing the renovated former chapel and its interior.
  • An artist’s impression of the interior of the proposed extension.

71 people attended, the majority being village residents.


Each visitor was asked to respond to the statement:

I support the TOCT proposals to:

  • Renovate the former chapel
  • Preserve this important heritage building
  • Provide an extension for vital services
  • Provide a venue for activities and events
  • Develop new interpretation and a range of heritage related learning projects.

65 people gave a response.

60 strongly agreed with the proposals.

4 agreed with the proposals

1 was unsure.


Successful Public Consultation

TOCT Public Consultation Photo June 2015The Public Consultation which was held on Saturday 27th June in the north aisle of St John’s Church was a resounding success.

There was an opportunity to see displays about the project and to see examples of the work of Paul Richold, Director of Architecton of Bristol, our appointed architect.

41 residents of Tolpuddle and Southover attended and expressed their views on the project plans and suggested uses of the renovated former chapel and proposed extension.

The Trustees were heartened by comments such as:

‘Delighted’, ‘Great’, ‘A very good idea’, Brilliant project’, ‘Very thoughtful’.

The majority strongly agreed or agreed with the idea to renovate the building, keeping the internal look and feel of the former chapel simple and in keeping with its heritage. They clearly agreed and understood the need for necessary facilities for its future use to be provided in an extension/additional building subservient in scale to the existing building.

There was also agreement of the building being available as ‘a quiet place’, free of charge during the day, while being available for use for various small group activities in the evenings.

Suggested uses were; a space for small meetings, arts exhibitions, reading groups, small music evenings with provision of refreshments.

35 people signed up to be a ‘Friend’ of TOCT. All ‘Friends’ will receive periodic updates by email about the progress of the project. Everyone who signed up received a TOCT fridge magnet free of charge.

Visitors to the village can now view our new interpretive notice board on site. This gives details of the project as well as links to our web site and to the audiovisual village trail.