Funded by UK Government

Tolpuddle Family Lives: History Club, Shared Reading, and Painting Classes

History Club

The History Club will be a run of informal conversations, discussions and exchanges for anyone interested in local history. Whether you are an experienced local historian, or a beginner, you will be made most welcome. Our endeavour will be to ‘imagine history’. Above all we don’t want to duplicate formal historical accounts: rather, we want to make our own heritage out of local stories, family memories, and the many easily overlooked scraps of information about what life was really like for the rural poor and those who lived and worked on the land in these valleys.

There are many ways to approach the making of this kind of history. One way is to ask basic questions ranging across time periods, such as what did people eat, how did they look after their children, how did they sleep, keep warm, tell the time, stay dry, light a fire? Another is to exchange family stories that have come down through the generations, and to use shared personal memories as a means of imagining the past. Yet another is to consider periods of great change in which villages like Tolpuddle were transformed, for example through enclosures, or the mechanisation of agriculture, or the opening or closing of certain trades and services in the villages, the diversion of roads, the provision of mains water – and so on.

We hope that the History Club will work together by asking questions such as these and by sharing responses. And perhaps we can also conduct our own research when the answers are not forthcoming, and support you in your own lines of enquiry. We hope our meetings will be shaped by a sociable spirit and the interests and enquiries that people bring along. We will also be keen to follow up on creative opportunities that our sessions produce, to contribute to a final exhibition in the Chapel of the whole project.

Sessions will be run by Philip Martin (TOCT Chair and Director of ‘Tolpuddle Family Lives’) and Sarah Acton, our Writer in Residence for the project as a whole. Sarah has extensive experience of working creatively with local history projects in Dorset.

All sessions are free of charge and will run mostly on Thursdays, 11am – 1pm, on the following dates: 11th April, 18th April, 2nd May, 9th May, 16th May, 30th May, 13th June, 27th June, 3rd October, 10th October, 26th October.

Further details from:

Shared Reading Group

Our Reading Group is an established series running on Tuesday mornings in the Old Chapel. The convenors have kindly agreed to run five sessions relating to the Tolpuddle Family Lives project, by considering writings that engage with the history of working people.

Further details are available from:

Painting Classes

Mike Parker is a local artist, a resident of Tolpuddle, and an experienced and established teacher of painting. He will be running five classes as part of Tolpuddle Family Lives in which participants will produce paintings reflecting the project themes of imagining rural history. No previous experience is required. There is no booking fee, but all materials will be provided for which there will be a modest charge. These classes will take place on Tuesday evenings in the Chapel.

Further details are available from: Michael Parker, 07854 458297, or