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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Tolpuddle tree dated back to 1680
Tolpuddle tree - Edward Parker from 'Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland'
Thousands of people visit the site every year
A tree which became an iconic symbol when it was the site of one of the first ever trade union meetings has been dated for the first time.

The tree has become a place of pilgrimage since the Tolpuddle Martyrs met there in 1834 to form a group to protest against poor wages.

They were deported to Australia, but were later pardoned and are credited with starting the union movement.

The National Trust has now revealed the tree is more than 320 years old.

'Pioneering movement'

Ray Hawes, from the trust, said: "The sycamore tree in Tolpuddle has become a place of pilgrimage every year, as thousands of people pay their respects to the Martyrs.

"Many of the visitors have no doubt wondered about the age of the tree and how big it was when the Martyrs met under it in 1834.

"New calculations we've carried out have established that the tree is around 320 years old, which means that it would already have been quite a large tree when the meeting that pioneered the modern trade union movement took place."

This year's Tolpuddle Martyrs festival is being held between 15 and 17 July and will feature political speakers such as Billy Bragg and Tony Benn.

Remembering the martyrs
19 Jul 03 |  Hampshire/Dorset
TUC boss celebrates union roots
21 Jul 02 |  England


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