The famous Sycamore (Acer Pseudoplatanus) tree on Tolpuddle Village Green, Dorset is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of trade unionist every year.
It is not only the largest Sycamore in Dorset, it is also growing on the smallest village green in Dorset.
The Tree planted in the 1680’s has secured its place in history, because under its vast spreading branches, generations of agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle, (barred from local church hall and other indoor venues) debated late into the night their plight and how to remedy it.
Apart from small talk, they would also have addressed the key issues of the day such as religion and their non conformist faith, no doubt they discussed the many pros and cons of emigration to America and Canada.
However, it would be discussions in 1833 about how they could best address the grinding poverty they and their fellow Dorset agricultural workers found themselves in, that would lead them to a conclusion that they would need to invite travelling delegates from the newly established Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, and ultimately to the fateful decision to form the Tolpuddle Lodge of the Agricultural Labourers Friendly Society in October 1834.
Approximately, forty men joined the union, but the local squirearchy would have non of it and agricultural labourers James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George’s brother James Loveless, George’s brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas’s son John Standfield were sentenced to transportation to Australia for their part in forming a union.
The Tolpuddle Tree witnessed the formation of the union, the Martyrs’ being taken away in shackles to Dorchester and their ultimate return in triumph after their full pardon.
It has also witnessed the growth of the annual march and rally to celebrate the Martyr’s courageous stand.