Levellers’ Day is an annual event held in May at Burford, Oxfordshire to celebrate the 17th century group of radicals.
On 17 May 1649, three soldiers were lined up and swiftly executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire.
They belonged to a movement popularly known as the Levellers, whose beliefs were grounded in civil rights and a fair society.
During the Civil War, the Levellers fought on Parliament’s side in Cromwell’s army. They had at first seen Cromwell as a liberator, but as the war drew closer to its bloody end they saw him as a dictator.
They were prepared to fight against him for their ideals and he was determined to crush them. Over 300 of them were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked up in Burford church. Three were led out into the churchyard to be shot as ringleaders.
In 1975, members of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) Oxford Industrial Branch went to Burford to reclaim a piece of history that seemed to be missing from the school books. They held a meeting in remembrance of the Leveller soldiers.
The following year, the Member of Parliment Tony Benn came and read in the church and in each succeeding year people have come to Burford on the Saturday nearest to 17 May. Each year as part of Levellers’ Day debates take place, a procession is held and music played. This is in remembrance of the Levellers and the importance of holding on to their ideals.
Last year in 2018 there was a performance by the Sea Green Singers, a radical choir from Oxford will who sang a programme of songs from England’s ‘hidden history’ in Warwick Hall.
This year’s Levellers’ Day will be held on Saturday, 11th May.