On Monday 24th February 1834 the six farm workers from Tolpuddle were arrested and forced to march to Dorchester. They were held in Gaol until the morning of 15th March when they were taken to County Hall and the Old Crown Court.

The Old CourtThe Court appears today much as it did in 1834. The men were held in dark, damp, smoke filled cells until they brought into the dock of the imposing court room.

Judge John Williams had just been appointed by the Whig government. He was ambitious and anxious to please. The Grand Jury agreed the basis for the charge against the trade unionists. This was hardly surprising as it included James Frampton who had been agitating for their arrest. He son and friends made up the rest of the Grand Jury and the case was remitted for the trial that took place just two days later.

The Petty Jury was made up of twelve local farmers who had no love for the union. A tradesman from Bere Regis named Bridle, was disqualified from the jury because he had heard George Loveless preach in the Methodist Chapel!

By 18th March the maximum sentence of seven years' transportation had been handed down.

West Dorset Disrict Council has moved out of the building in which the Old Court is a the centre.
Rigged trial
Historic court and cells will make Dorchester proud
 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support

The Historic Court and Cells at Shire Hall will make Dorset proud

Shire Hall will open as a new Historic Courthouse Museum in May 2018 following a major restoration supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Museum will be run by the Shire Hall (Dorchester)Trust, whose mission is to is to make Shire Hall into a place that engages visitors with the history of justice and injustice in Dorset and beyond. It inspires people to make a difference to society, politics, and justice for all.

The new Museum tells the story of the trial of the Martyrs, in the place where those events unfolded. You will be able to visit the cell where they were held for three days awaiting their trial, hear George Loveless’s words describing their experience and browse through his account of their ordeal. 

You will also discover many other stories of people whose lives were affected (and, in some cases, ended) as a result of their experiences at Shire Hall. 

Visit Shire Hall

More information about the new Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum can be found at www.shirehalldorset.org.

Shire Hall

58-60 High West Street

Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1UY

01305 267 992

Email: [email protected]

Train: Dorchester South or West stations
Get directions