Updated on 14th October 2019
Levellers’ Day is an annual event held in May at Burford, Oxfordshire, to celebrate the 17th century group of radicals.
On 17th 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 English Civil War Period, 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 Levellers were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked up in Burford church. Three were led out into the churchyard and shot to death 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 Parliament Tony Benn came and read in the church and in each succeeding year people have come to Burford on the Saturday nearest to 17th May.
Each year, as part of Levellers’ Day, debates take place, a procession is held and music played. This is in memory of the Levellers and the importance of holding onto their ideals.
In 2018, there was a performance by the Sea Green Singers, a radical choir from Oxford who sang a programme of songs.
The next Levellers’ Day, in 2020, will be held on Saturday, 16th May.
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