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Paterson River history

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Tolpuddle Martyrs in the Hunter Valley

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six agricultural labourers from Dorset, England, who were arrested for wilfully administering an oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in 1834. At the time, friendly societies had strong parallels with today's trade unions and were viewed as a threat by the British Government. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia.

In August 1834 five of the six arrived in Sydney on the ship Surrey. They were James Loveless, Thomas Standfield, John Standfield, James Hammett and James Brine. The sixth man, George Loveless, was sent to Van Diemens Land (later called Tasmania).

Of the five who landed in Sydney, three were assigned in the Hunter Valley. James Brine was initially assigned in Sydney and then transferred to Robert Scott at Glendon in the upper Hunter. Thomas Standfield was assigned to Timothy Nowlan on his estate between Maitland and Paterson. His son John Standfield was assigned to Richard Jones in Sydney but sent to Jones' farm at Bolwarra, Maitland (father and son ended up just a few kilometres from each other).

Meanwhile back in England the six men had become popular heroes, martyrs for the union cause, and 800,000 signatures were collected for their release. Their supporters organised a political march, one of the first successful marches in the UK. In September 1836 they were granted conditional pardons, followed shortly after by absolute pardons. They returned home as free men but five of the six eventually settled in Ontario, Canada.

Today there is a Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum in Dorset.


Marlow, Joyce. The Tolpuddle Martyrs. London, 1971.