Press Release

November 2023

Completion of the Renovation of Tolpuddle Old Chapel, and the removal of the Chapel from the ‘At Risk’ register

The removal of Tolpuddle Old Chapel from Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register marks a key moment in this building’s story. This is a building which so very nearly slipped out of history altogether. Commissioned and built in 1818 by two of the men who later became known as Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Old Chapel is the first material trace of the Martyrs’ heritage. Its passage through time right up to 2014 has always been precarious. At its opening, the congregation and the Minister were assaulted by an anti- Methodist mob. After its lease expired later in the century the building began a slow and relentless decay. It was used as an agricultural stable and store right through to the twentieth century, and during this time, its origins were gradually forgotten, and its historical value largely unrecognised. In 2014, Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust was established with the prime aim of saving the Martyrs’ legacy through a sympathetic renovation capable of telling the story of the building’s transformations, as well as preserving this near unique example of an earthen, cob-built Chapel of its period. Now, with the removal of its ‘at risk’ status Tolpuddle Old Chapel has an assured future, standing as a proud and secure monument to the determination of the labouring people who built it against all the odds.

Professor Philip Martin, current Chair of the Trust, said: ‘It is a privilege for us to have the stewardship of this building with all the resonance of its history. After two hundred years, it is now safe for the first time. We begin a new phase in which Tolpuddle Old Chapel will be a heritage site for visitors, a distinctive addition to Dorset’s fine range of historical attractions, and a social and cultural amenity for the village and the surrounding settlements. We are deeply grateful to all our sponsors and funders who have made all this possible, together with the hard work and talents of our former and present Trustees, and our wonderful supporters and volunteers.’

Notes to editors:

Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust is a registered charity, established to save and restore the Old Chapel for community use.     Twitter: @TolpuddleOCT