Shire Hall Visit – The Tolpuddle Martyrs

Part of our Ancient Greece unit has looked at democracy and how states have been/are ruled. We made a link with our own country and how we are governed, particularly focusing on how the justice system works. Our visit to Shire Hall in Dorchester showed how the system worked 200 years ago, with a particular focus on the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. 

We saw the main court room and learnt about the different groups of people that would have been present in a court case.

We listened to the story of the Tolpuddle martyrs – how they created a union to try and work together to improve their wages and standards of living as the farmers were struggling to afford the basics in order to survive.

Little did they know that they were breaking an ancient, obscure law that forbade people to swear an oath….


They were arrested and taken to prison (Shire Hall) where they were held in a cell.

In court we heard witness accounts.

Based on what we had heard, we then came to our own decisions – guilty or not guilty…

Despite the court process, we discovered that the men were found guilty because the jurors would have lost their land to farm and therefore their livelihoods as the high jurors were the local landowners/employers. 

Eventually, most of the men were transported to Australia. Visit Shire Hall to find out what happened next.

We continued to enjoy the other aspects of the Shire Hall court room

Thank you Shire Hall for a wonderful, memorable day! We learnt so much!