ONE Echo reader has been inspired to use her artistic talents to depict the history of Tolpuddle, after her interest was piqued by our weekly Looking Back features.

Audrey Russell wrote to us saying: “It’s strange how Looking Back brings up all sorts of memories. At the moment I seem to be coming across events where people were transported for their beliefs or for petty crimes. The one example I have in mind is the Tolpuddle Martyrs.”

One afternoon, Audrey and her husband came across The Martyrs Inn in Tolpuddle, where they shared afternoon tea and got chatting to the pub’s owner. The conversation ended with the keen artist promising to do a painting of the traditional inn, which dates back to 1921.

So sparked Audrey’s decision to draw scenes of the village, illustrating the history of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Thanks to the friendly and welcoming nature of the villagers, Audrey has since managed to create four pen and wash drawings of interesting buildings around the parish.

Her artwork includes sketches of the main road and surrounding cottages, plus the green frequented by the martyrs themselves. One painting also shows the house where the only martyr who returned to Tolpuddle, James Hammett, lived until he moved to the Dorchester Workhouse, where he died in 1891.

A project, led by The Tolpuddle Old Chapel Trust (TOCT), is currently underway to restore the grade II listed former Methodist Chapel to its original form. The building lies a few hundred yards from the where the martyrs famously met around a sycamore tree on the green and will, according to the Trust, become “a quiet place in the heart of this historic Dorset village.”

TOCT say the building “reflects the lives and hardships of the people who built it and their desire for change,” and the Trust hope its restoration will preserve the legacy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs for future generations.

Our reader, Audrey, intends to share her paintings with the residents of Tolpuddle and learn more about the historic village as she does so.