End of the Levellers

were complicated times. If it was possible to kill your King, it was possible to do anything. Much of the energy and enthusiasm of the Parliamentary victories came from men who believed that the new times required new political structures, with much broader, popular support. They were embryonic democrats, known at the time as Levellers.

In May 1649, impatient with their leaders' lack of progress, 800 troops mutinied at Salisbury. They marched North to Burford, swimming the Thames on the way, to meet up with a similar group from Oxford. There they rested, assured by the promise of negotiations about their grievances (which also included the fact that they hadn't been paid).

But Oliver Cromwell had no intention of negotiating. At midnight he entered the town with 2,000 horsemen and captured 340 of the Levellers, imprisoning them in that beautiful Burford church. One prisoner, Anthony Sedley, carved his name on the font.

Three of the leaders were summarily executed against the church wall (see the bullet-holes - and the commemorative plaque outside, to Cornet Thompson, Corporal Perkins and Private Church). So Cromwell, the Parliamentary hero, proved that the last thing he was interested in was democracy.

After all the excitement was over, Burford went back to peaceful pursuits. In addition to the above-mentioned quarrying, there was also the Burford Race-course, a highly fashionable place to be seen. Nell Gwynn visited several times with Charles II, and their son Charles Beauclerk was created Earl of Burford.

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