The Renovation

Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust (TOCT) purchased the Old Chapel building and site in February 2015. The project received financial and professional support from several organisations including the Architectural Heritage Fund, English Heritage, Bridport and Dorchester Methodist Circuit, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Steele Raymond solicitors.

The Old Chapel prior to the start of emergency work


Following the purchase English Heritage funded emergency repairs and stabilisation.

During 2015 and 2016, with the support of the The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Architectural Heritage Fund, Dorset County Council and West Dorset District Council, project development and design work progressed. Consultations were held with residents and visitors to the annual Tolpuddle Festival, resulting in feedback on the proposals and strong support for the project.

The Chapel following emergency repairs and stabilisation work.


Due to a series of unavoidable delays and the complications of Covid19, work began on site in the Spring of 2021. With a building of this age and distinction, the greatest care had to be exercised by our architects and contractors both in terms of the work itself and the materials used. The constitution of the chalk and cob was analysed, and an exact match was found in an old chalk-pit in Affpuddle, around a mile or so away. With the kind permission of the farm owners, Roger and Shirley Prideaux, this pit provided the materials for the cob repairs supervised by Historic England. The renovation itself was never intended to be a full restoration. No records of the building in 1818 were available for such a purpose, and it was always the Trust’s endeavour to show something of this building’s biography through the passage of time as it changed from being a chapel into an agricultural building for storage and stabling. This biography is subtly present in such features as the fragment of the hayloft floor conserved above the main entrance, and the bricked pathways in the interior marking the drainage serving the stabled animals. The original furniture of the Chapel (there would have been pews) is echoed in the modern ash benches discreetly flanking the main entrance doorway, made by a local craftsman, Joe Blathwayt. The extraordinary events of the anti-Methodist riot at the Chapel’s opening in 1818, when the congregation and the minister’s party were stoned and assaulted are commemorated by the large pebbles studded into the apron of the Chapel’s side entrance, these pebbles being presented to the Trust by a party of pilgrimaging Methodists. This is a building with a story to tell.

The renovation of Tolpuddle Old Chapel was completed in the summer of 2023, and opened for regular use on September 1st. A full record of the build comprising videos and photographs was made by Ian Cray, and is now lodged with Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

Old Chapel 2023
The restoration was completed in 2023