History of Britain - Changing Lives


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13.The Tolpuddle Martyrs

An exploration of the hard lives of agricultural workers in the early 19th century, and of the impact of enclosures. (6.25 mins)

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iconChapter Breakdown

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1. If the cities were so bad, why did people move there?
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2. Tolpuddle in Dorset - where six labourers experienced hard times on the land. Enclosures - and starvation wages.
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3. How did the rural poor respond? Some left for the cities - others fought back.
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4. The story of the Tolpuddle 'Martyrs'.
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5. The 'Martyrs' sentanced to transportation - evidence of a society in need of reform?

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I wish I could recommend the village of Tolpuddle! It sits south of the A35 between Dorchester and Bournemouth - but it's hardly Dorset's loveliest village. It hosts a museum, some statues to commemorate the martyrs.

The more attractive scenes in the module where shot nearby at Moreton.


The second half of the module was filmed in the courtroom in Dorchester, which is fun to visit. It's full of atmosphere, if you can ignore the naff wooden cut-outs of the judge and jurors.

A historical Tolpuddle irony: the tour guides here recently went on strike because of low pay...


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