Legacy of Tolpuddle Martyrs saved thanks to National Lottery

The National Lottery Heritage Fund today confirmed a grant of £329,300 to help save Tolpuddle Old Chapel, the meeting place of the Dorsetshire Labourers before the events that saw them help spark the Trade Union movement and become known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

The Grade II* Listed building is of international importance but it is in a poor state of repair and on Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’. The National Lottery funding will secure its future.

After four years of dedicated hard work by trustees, volunteers, project managers, consultants, architects, Friends of Tolpuddle Old Chapel and financial sponsors, TOCT has raised over £290,000 for the project, with £36,000 left to raise for the project which will cost £655,000 in total.

The National Lottery funding success finally puts The Trust in a strong position to realise its vision of renovating and extending Tolpuddle Old Chapel. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project will renovate and extend the former chapel to provide the potential for the appropriate re-use of the building as a ‘quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village’, as well as creating interpretation and community engagement activities to tell the history of the building and its connection to the Dorsetshire Labourers later known as The Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Stuart Hobley, Area Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Over two centuries old, Tolpuddle Old Chapel represents a fascinating chapter of the story of Dorset, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and social justice. Thanks to National Lottery players, the building will be saved and the legacy of the people and communities who used it will be shared.”

Commenting on the award, Andrew McCarthy, Chairman of TOCT said:

“TheTrustees of the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust welcome the continued support of the National Lottery in awarding this grant towards the cost of renovating this unique former chapel.  Since our purchase of this ‘At Risk’ building in 2015, the Trust has received the backing of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic England, Charitable Trusts and Foundations, Dorset County Council, the former West Dorset District Council and numerous individuals.  This final highly significant National Lottery funding will allow the Trust’s architect, Paul Richold of Architecton, to move plans forward in order to start building work, as well as ensuring this wonderful legacy is saved for future generations.”

Local MP, Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin, congratulated the Trust saying: “It is a great delight to hear of your successful Grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.  What is so wonderful about your project, quite apart from the beautiful way in which it is being executed, is the fact that it has been conceived not by some great agency charged with such functions, but by the voluntary efforts of people who have nothing to gain by it and whose enthusiasm for the cause derives exclusively from their concern to improve the place in which they live and to celebrate the links of that place with a part of our history that is of global significance.

I am proud to have supported Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust during its three years development and look forward to building work starting to provide this additional heritage destination for West Dorset.”

Sarah Ball, Heritage at Risk Architect at Historic England welcomed the news:
“The Old Chapel is of great historic significance through its connection with the Tolpuddle Martyrs. We are proud to part-fund this project and to support the members of the Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust in their tireless work to secure the chapel’s future. The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s award is wonderful news and means that vital major repairs to this important building can soon
get under way.”

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