Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Levellers last stand in Burford.

This last week has been beautiful weather and, of course, we couldn't go anywhere.

Monday - repairs.
Tuesday up at hospital for an infusion.
Wednesday I had a pointless Doctors appointment - the hospital told me to get my injections prescribed by my GP instead of them. So I wasted a day going to the Doctor who tells me what I knew already; the injections can only be prescribed by the hospital.


So Thursday we planned to get up really early and go to Dorset.

Instead I woke up in all kinds of agony and we ended up getting up late, so we went to The Cotswolds which is nearer.

But you wouldn't expect me to just go round some pretty villages would you?

First I had to go to Burford churchyard to pay my respects to 'The Levellers'.

Here's the parish church on a beautiful day;

Inside it's a very fine church;

But it hides a dark episode in our history. In the 17th century, Oxfordshire which is now so respectable and conservative (David Cameron and any number of wealthy people live there) was once a centre of revolutionary ferment.

This was the heartland of the English Civil War, when the Roundheads deposed and later executed a king.

For Oliver Cromwell and the majority of 'The New Model Army' this was about overthrowing a catholic king and replacing him with some kind of protestant regime.

For a minority who called themselves 'Agitators', this was about replacing the monarchy with a republic and inequality with social justice.

It was a campaign for universal suffrage (male only I'm afraid - this was the 17th century after all) and religious freedom.

As a result their enemies called them 'Levellers' as a term of abuse but which we all take as a badge of honour now.

Debates raged in The New Model Army, there was a flurry of pamphlets and leaflets.......and Cromwell had the leaders executed one by one.

In Banbury there was a last ditch rebellion which was put down in blood and the last 340 levellers were locked up in Burford Church. 

Then the three 'ringleaders' were executed in the churchyard.

In the 1970's there was a movement to put up a memorial and the result is this plaque on the church wall;

Every May there is a small festival of music and debates organised by the South East Regional Trades Union Council to commemorate The Levellers and what they stood for.

Years and years ago I sung there. 

Inside the church, if you look at the font there's a piece of graffiti;

           "Anthony Sedley 1649 Prisner"
After that, we went off to have a look around the villages of The Cotswolds - that's for tomorrow!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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