Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters Of A 17th Century Prisoner

This week’s Daily Post  Weekly Photo Challenge is to share a photograph with letters, any letters.

As Cheri puts it:

As you look through your lens, think about how your image might convey something bigger: a snapshot of how we communicate with one another, even if we don’t speak the same language.’

As soon as I found out about this challenge I knew exactly which photo I wanted to share, being one from the series of photographs I took when visiting the The Cotswolds in early March.

I’ve always been taken with old churches and the wealth of history and hidden treasures contained within them.

Since my children grew up in California, when we visited ‘back home’ in England I wanted them to know as much about their British roots as their American ones and hopefully instill in them the same love of history I’ve always enjoyed!

This meant dragging introducing them to places I wanted them to know about and not just in London, such as The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey but other places along the length and breadth of this wonderful Isle of ours, from Whitby Abbey and York Minster ‘up north’ to  Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge ‘down south’ in the plains of Wiltshire.

(A Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England, most famously York Minster in York.  (source credit: Wikipedia))

Surprises met us in the most unexpected places.  For instance, we didn’t expect to discover that King Ethelred, brother of King Alfred the Great (849 – 899 AD) and King of Wessex from 865 to 871 AD, is buried in a tomb inside the church at Wimborne Minster, a small market town in Dorset just a few miles from where I once lived before moving to the States!

(My inner geekiness is coming out now, I love this stuff!)

While visiting the village of Burford in the Cotswolds, I had to stop by the church, parts of which date back as early as 1160 AD.   Looking casually around and admiring the architecture and beautiful stained glass windows I was drawn to the font, which itself dates back to the 12th century.

Immediately, I noticed this delightful little gem; beneath some protective glass is a carving on the lead on top of the ancient font:

Burford, The Cotswolds Mar 2014 (38)

Carving on the font at Burford Church, The Cotswolds, England (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

It reads: 

‘Anthony Sedley 1649 Prisner, ‘. 

A sign showing a copy of rubbings taken of the original writing (placed on top of the font, hence the reflection captured in the photograph) explains the brief story; who this man was and why he felt the need to inscribe his name on the font in this way:

Tracing of original carving by Anthony Sedley, 1649 on the font at Burford Church, The Cotswolds, England (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Tracing of original carving by Anthony Sedley on the font at Burford Church, The Cotswolds
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Out of the 300 plus ‘Levellers’ (a group of radicals who, during the years of the English Civil War, challenged the control of Parliament – source credit: History Learning Site) trapped and imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers on the night of 13th May, 1649 and for three nights hence at Burford church, three were executed (shot) and subsequently buried in the churchyard.

Sedley wasn’t one of them, escaping with his life, and his letters, carved out for us to read some 360 years later, appear to be his only remaining memorial.

I wonder what became of  ‘prisner’ Anthony Sedley?

 

 

 

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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64 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters Of A 17th Century Prisoner

  1. Denise says:

    LD#2 loves history although I have always found it sad with all the wars and, as you say, shootings/killings that arose.  But on the other hand I am beginning through her appreciation of it to think about the beauty that stays with us, and also of that sense of wondering what happened to people  and caring about what happened to them.  Although they wouldn’t have known that we would, it’s somewhat comforting through all the bad stuff that we do…

    ________________________________

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    • Sherri says:

      Ever since I was young I’ve always tried to imagine what it must have been like when visiting historical places for the people who lived there. I don’t think of the wars or the killing. I remember standing in the kitchen at Hampton Court when I was about 8 years old and trying my hardest to close off from the people around me and ‘sense’ the past as I thought it must have been. I’ve always been strange like that! I see so many stories out of the lives previously lived. Now I’m going to be obsessed with Anthony Sedley for a while, oh I just wish I had more time to do real research! All three of my kids did inherit a love of history, Eldest son actually did his degree in History (at Sussex Uni!). I’m so glad that you are learning to enjoy it more through your LD2 🙂

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  2. Oh, Sherri, now you can call me a geek, too. From The Oxford Times website:
    http://bit.ly/1hQO890

    “He [Anthony Sedley] was one of the 340 so-called Levellers captured by Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax on May 13 that year — three months after the execution of King Charles I — who were locked up in the church for three nights.
    “He escaped with his life. Others were not so lucky.”
    🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, that’s right, he escaped but no mention is ever made of him again. He left his memorial carved on the lead on top of the font at Burford church for all to read as the centuries rolled on by! I think it would be a great story to look into…what happened to Anthony Sedley? I lap this stuff up! Glad to know I’m not the only geek here, thanks Susan 🙂

      Like

  3. I learned something new today! Thanks for sharing this Sherri. Your children must have had a wonderful childhood. So many great memories.

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    • Sherri says:

      It’s great to learn something new isn’t it? I honestly didn’t know about this particular ‘seige’ until I looked into it after visiting Burford church. I love coming across this kind of thing, right there, on a random visit! I’m so very grateful to have been able to take the kids to so many places. There were many things I wanted to do with them but didn’t get the chance so I made up for it by dragging them all over the UK!!! Thanks Jhanis 🙂

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  4. What fun Sherri! I’m sure your children loved seeing all the sights with you 🙂 I think old churches are so interesting to explore and discover. I only wish that we had more of them here in the US! It sounds like you uncovered a great mystery. I wonder whatever became of him?!

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Heather! I wanted my children to have an appreciation of history in all forms. I was always so impressed with the lessons they were taught in American schools about your country’s history and I wanted to balance that out with British history too! They tell me they enjoyed those days and all three do have a love of history so it must have paid off! And yes, I wonder too, a great mystery eh?

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      • I was ready to say the same to Heather! History is everywhere, even in more recent countries such as the US. Lovely photos and intriguing story, Sherri.

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        • Sherri says:

          Thank you very much Evelyne and yes, absolutely, the US might be a younger country but the history held there is every bit as fascinating. I loved learning all about the pioneer days for instance, taking the kids ‘gold panning’ in Sonoma and also to places with a natural ancient history like Yosemite 🙂

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  5. Eric the Red is a name I recall from History class; the rest my mind wasn’t present. What a waste. Today, I want to know everything, especially history. We bring people back to life even when we can’t picture them. Visiting historical places must be like peeling back the years to expose gems as you did by coming across the inscription.
    This is a wonderful post for the challenge and the pictures are fantastic.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I was the same Tess, I remember some names from my history classes way back but never really paid much attention until I was older and came to an appreciation for all these historical facts! It really is wonderful to discover these hidden nuggets from the past, I love imagining all the stories behind the people who lived so long ago…
      Thanks so much Tess, glad you enjoyed 🙂

      Like

  6. suej says:

    Great take on the post, Sherri, and a fascinating fragment of history…

    Like

  7. Your post gave me goose bumps! What an amazing world we live in that Anthony Sedley could have his name felt in Australia so many years later! I wonder how old he was and about his parents and if he was married?

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    • Sherri says:

      Isn’t it though? The power of the internet, one couldn’t have imagined not that long ago!! Yes, I would love to find out more about this ‘prisner’ Sedley 🙂

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  8. Where were you when I was in junior high school and hating my History class, Sherri? You make history fun and quite interesting.
    I love the photos of the church. The stained glass is stunning.
    You definitely met the challenge with this post…well done! xo

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      HaHa! Oh Jill, I’m so with you and I have a little secret to share…I used to detest history when I was at school too (didn’t like the teacher, the lessons were soooo boring) but came to love and greatly appreciate it over the years, especially when I wanted to share my British roots with my children. Always loved anything medieval though! I’m so glad you enjoyed this, thanks so much 🙂 xo

      Like

  9. seeker says:

    I will goggle it.

    Like

  10. What great pictures. I love history too and I’ll take a history lesson from you any day!

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  11. Gorgeous pics! I love that stuff too. You gotta drag those kids through these places even if they don’t appreciate it at the time. 🙂

    Like

  12. bulldog says:

    This is a brilliant share that gives us all an education…. the photos give the whole post a depth of mystery into the history of the past… brilliant…

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Bulldog, so glad you enjoyed this little piece of history, I was thrilled to come across this hidden gem and then to be able to share it here 🙂

      Like

  13. jennypellett says:

    We always seek out the church when visiting somewhere new although we are not at all religious. You can glean so much about a place through the writings, tombs, art and even the riches within. This is a great post Sherri- glad you’re a history geek too!

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I remember from your posts your love of churches, the history of them is so fascinating isn’t it? I love reading all the writings and finding out about who is buried in the tombs. I love the graveyards too!! So much history, so many stories waiting to be told…glad you enjoyed this little piece, thanks Jenny. It’s good to be a geek isn’t it? 🙂

      Like

  14. Rachel M says:

    I can’t imagine there’s much left of King Alfred or King Ethelred by now. I love all that history too.

    Like

  15. Mabel Kwong says:

    Beautiful church, and beautiful pictures. Sharp eye you have to spot the faint carvings on stone. I don’t think many of us take time to carve messages on stone anymore. Sure, there are pen scribbles of the most immature thoughts on classroom tables but apart from that…nothing. Part of the fun is figuring out these carved messages 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Mabel, so glad you enjoyed this little view of the past! HaHa, as you say, more than a few of those ‘immature thoughts’ carved out on school desks and such, remember them well! Not sure those will be remembered in quite the same way as ‘Prisner’ Sedley’s memorial carved out on the font at Burford Church, lol 🙂

      Like

  16. Your post and pics gave me goose bumps, Sherri. The church is so beautiful that it’s hard to imagine such violent acts happening there.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Sylvia, I wasn’t expecting this find when we walked into the church to look around. A very vivid and violent story behind these ‘letter’s indeed. The village itself is very pretty and quaint which makes it even harder to imagine.
      All part of our ‘bloody’ British history 😉

      Like

  17. Pat says:

    Interesting post and love the photos, Sherri. I love exploring and discovering places I’ve never been and the history. I imagine there is so much to explore over there. Here in the US, it’s not as old as we tend to replace rather than restore. It’s all fun, no matter where you live, to scout around and check things out. You never know what you’ll find, like you. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      It really is great to come across finds like this, no matter where you are. I was really surprised as I had no idea of the history behind this church when we went inside! I’m so glad you enjoyed exploring with me Pat, thank you for coming along! There is so much to discover both sides of the big pond! 🙂

      Like

  18. thirdhandart says:

    Awesome photos… and great entry Sherri! I’ve read some really dry history articles, but not yours. Loved all the interesting, memorable facts and tidbits that you included. You’d have made a wonderful teacher!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Theresa, I’m really glad you enjoyed this little historical piece but I’m not sure about the teacher bit, I don’t think I would have the patience!! Nice of you to say though 🙂

      Like

  19. This is a fantastic read! Thank you so much for posting and glad to be following your blog! x

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hello there Blonde Perfectionist (love the name!) and thank you very much for reading my blog and for the follow too!
      Welcome to my summerhouse, I hope you continue to enjoy what you find here, it’s lovely to meet you – Sherri 🙂

      Like

  20. Mahesh Nair says:

    Lovely take! Beautiful pictures. I try to do what you do, that is, stand and imagine how things were, but it gets difficult when you have people around you imagining noisily.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Many thanks Mahesh, so glad you enjoyed it! You are so right about ‘imagining noisily’…not so easy to get a quiet moment is it? Although it was very quiet inside this church so it was much easier to do so on this occasion… 😉

      Like

  21. TBM says:

    Now that we live here, I’ve been dragging the better half all over so we can learn the history. I have an advantage: offer a pub visit as a bribe. Thanks for sharing this. I’m a history nerd and proud of it.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      That’s a great idea, use a pub as a bribe! It’s great isn’t it being able to visit all these wonderful places of historical interest and then being able to round the day off nicely with a pint, or two… 😉
      Proud history nerds indeed, thanks TB 🙂

      Like

  22. As a born and bred Salisburian (making up words here), I was thrilled to see Salisbury Cathedral in your list 😉 Oh, I love that place. I miss it a lot..
    Like you, I love old churches. So, so much. I could stay in them all day. There’s a wonderful old church up the road from me, and I often hear its bells ringing. I like to hear it 🙂

    The history in our country is beautiful.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jenny Jen Jen, I adore the sound of church bells! I thought of you I have to say when I made mention of Salisbury Cathedral! It was one of the places on my long list that I wanted my kids to visit, never thinking in a million years that one day I would be living not so far away from Salisbury. So strange how life does that…
      We have a beautiful history here, no doubt about it! Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed this little snippet. Hope you are having a good week 🙂

      Like

      • It is a marvellous place, isn’t it 🙂 Salisbury Cathedral, I mean. Beautiful beautiful. Indeed, life can throw some very strange things at you! Things you least expect. I am currently living a moment where something I thought would never happen to me in a million years is, in fact, happening to me. But there we go, that’s half the fun of life 😉

        My week is busyyyy, annoyingly. As always, these days. Don’t have much time for anything, so it seems. But it’s okay, and I’m feeling good, thank you 🙂 I hope you are well, dear Sherri P!

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        • Sherri says:

          Seems to be busy like this for everyone. I’m playing catch up constantly. Keep pressing on and all that, rolling up the sleeves…glad you are okay though and feeling good, that’s great news! Have a good rest of the week dear Jenny Jen Jen…love Sherri P 🙂
          PS So funny – I was in town recently (I don’t go into town very often believe it or not!) and I could have sworn that I saw you, so much so that I almost blurted out ”Jenny Jen Jen’!!!) It wasn’t you, was it…??!!
          Haha…;-)

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          • Indeed! Everyone seems to be buckling down for one reason or another. Funny how the world goes in phases like that sometimes.
            Hahaha, depends what town you were in, Sherri! 😉 You know, it’s strange: I get SO MANY people saying that very thing to me – that they could have sworn they saw me in town. My friends honestly say it all the time. I am either one of identical quadruplets and my mother didn’t tell me something, or I have teleportation skills 😛

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  23. I love all this history of places also. It makes them come alive. I grew up with a vision of cathedrals in England as being places of blood and guts and dead bodies. I must have been three when I was taken around them but it stayed with me although my parents denied that there was any such thing in the places we went. Seeing your photos and hearing your stories reminds me of this. When I revisited as an adult I could see exactly where I got my childhood vision from.
    Hope you’re having a good week. Cheers Irene

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I can see where your childhood memories came from Irene, our bloody, British history such as it is! I was stunned though to make this particular discovery, had no idea! Not too bad thanks, just not enough time for everything, you know, the usual… Cheers!!! 🙂

      Like

  24. I love all your photo adventures, Sherri, but this one stole my heart and my imagination. Stunning!
    You captured me with the title–“Letters of a 17th Century Prisoner”–and your writing was vividly wonderful.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Marylin, I just love it when I come across little finds like this and then able to share them here. I love your enthusiasm for this post, thank you so much!! As soon as I saw the theme for this challenge I knew the photo I wanted to share and glad that I saved it from the other Cotswolds post.! I was there for ages just standing by the font trying to imagine what it must have been like for those prisoners trapped in that very place for three days by Cromwell’s soldiers, not knowing what was going to happen to them 🙂 Wouldn’t it be great to know what happened to prisner Sedley? 🙂

      Like

  25. Thanks for sharing this little piece of ‘hidden’ history Sherri – I do love to hear about those who weren’t necessarily famous but were ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So glad you enjoyed it Andrea! Absolutely, I think there are so many wonderfully intriguing stories to be told of ordinary people in circumstances such as these 🙂

      Like

  26. Heyjude says:

    A great find Sherri. As you know I love exploring churches and churchyards, though I haven’t got a religious bone in my body. It’s the history of these places that excites me, and the architecture in many cases. And I LOVED history at school, although our history teacher had one of those voices that droned on in monotone and I often found myself falling asleep on a Friday afternoon in the room above the gym which got flooded with sun. Hearing “JUDITH!” woke me up with a start on more than one occasion, but thankfully there was another Judith in the class!

    Discovering something like this piece of writing is wonderful – and what a great challenge entry. As you say, I wonder what happened to poor Anthony Sedley?
    Jude xx (Hope you have enjoyed a lovely Bank Holiday weekend)

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I did think of you Jude when I posted this so I’m really glad you got to read it when you returned from your trip and thank you very much!
      Haha, wow, you took me right back to my school days reading this! I hated history in middle school for precisely that reason, the teacher was so boring, but later on I came to have a natural love for it, boring teachers or not, so I’m with you!!!
      We did have a lovely weekend thanks, had my middle boy home so that was nice. Hope the weather was good for you and as I posted over on your blog, lovely to have you back 🙂 xx

      Like

  27. That is an amazing discovery my friend. A letter that gives us a glimpse of a rich past. It is a blessing to teach our kids of where their ancestors came from. That they have another home and a bigger family in another country other than where they live now. London has so so much gems and treasure of a history. We visited a relative there last Summer and it us unforgettable. So much to fall in love with. God bless you and your family always.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I’m so glad to know that you enjoyed this little piece of British history IT, I was thrilled to come across it and to be able to share it here with everyone! Yes, I think it is so important to share as much of our children’s heritage with them as possible, to open their world up to all kind of possibilities! How wonderful that you got to visit London, and so glad that you enjoyed it so much, that makes me smile from ear to ear! Blessings to you and your family too my friend, have a wonderful week ahead, and thank you so much for always taking the time to share your lovely stories and comments with me, I always enjoy every word 🙂

      Like

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