Hanged man's letter named top treasure in Trowbridge
A letter written by a 19-year-old man hanged in 1803 for setting fire to a mill in Semington as part of an anti-mechanisation protest has been chosen as one of Wiltshire’s top 10 treasures.
A handwritten copy of the last letter written by Thomas Helliker (signed Hiliker) is on display at Trowbridge Museum in The Shires shopping centre.
It has been picked as one of 100 objects in BBC’s A History of the World Project, in partnership with the British Museum and 350 museums and institutions across the country.
It is one of 10 historical items chosen to define Wiltshire, alongside a Bush Barrow gold lozenge in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes and a neolithic pot from the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury.
Helliker, who is buried in the grounds of St James Church, was hanged after allegedly setting fire to Littleton Mill, near Semington, and the letter is a moving farewell to his family.
Trowbridge Museum curator Clare Lyall said: “The early 19th century was a turbulent time; there was a real fear among the establishment that there was going to be a revolution similar to that in France. The fact that they burnt down a mill would have been a real blow to the establishment and they had to make an example of someone.
“Unfortunately, they picked someone who we now know was probably the wrong guy."
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