Welcome to Tolpuddle Old Chapel website

Tolpuddle Old Chapel (1818) is a Grade II* listed building, a rare and near unique survival of an earthen vernacular Wesleyan Methodist Chapel from the early nineteenth century, built by some of the men who later became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Its modest architectural features resonate with the history of its construction and evolution, bearing the rich imprint of the social history made by labouring people across time. As the first and most enduring material trace of the Martyrs, it marks the point of origin for one of the most extraordinary social protests and parliamentary contentions in British history. From this small dot in the Dorset landscape there erupted a massive controversy around the rights of the labouring poor and their claims for a just wage, religious independence, and protection within the law.

Interior today
The interior today showing simple benches.

Tolpuddle Old Chapel is a building that almost slipped out of history. Its opening in 1818 was marked by a violent anti-Methodist riot, a prejudice which dogged its progress as a place of worship through the 1820s. After the trial, transportation, pardoning and return of the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1834-1837) the Chapel continued as a place of worship until the early 1840s when it had to close, probably on account of an expired lease. The land on which it was built reverted to the landowner. Over the following years and right through until the late twentieth century, it was used continuously as an agricultural store and for livestock stabling. Its origins almost dropped out of the collective local memory.

Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust was formed in 2014 with the aim of ‘saving the Martyrs’ legacy,’ by renovating the building. With the generous support of a range of funders, and after delays caused by Covid 19, the renovation was finally completed on September 1st, 2023.

The Trust’s vision is to establish Tolpuddle Old Chapel as a building of historical significance and a venue serving local needs and visitors’ interests. Our Mission is to preserve and encourage the sustainable use of Tolpuddle Old Chapel as a local and national asset.