Popular Protest and Petitions

In 1834 James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, James Loveless, Thomas Standfield and John Standfield were arrested, put on trial and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. Their crime was to join a trade union in the small Dorset town of Tolpuddle. Nation-wide campaigning resulted in a full and complete pardon for each of them. The Martyrs returned home.

You are here

Back to top

Victimisation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs inspired widespread outcry in Britain. Trade unionists and supporters recognised this a‎s an attack on the rights of workers to organise for better conditions and influence in society at large.

The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union called a meeting - attended by more than 10,000 - on 24 March 1834. On 21 April Copenhagen Fields in London was flooded with up to 100,000 trade unionists; they marched to Parliament and delivered a petition signed by 250,000 people.

In response to public outrage, a conditional pardon was granted by June 1835. Pressure mounted as petitions from all over the country were delivered to Parliament. Full and free pardons were granted in March 1836.