[diggers350] an account of things

Alan Lodge tash at gn.apc.org
Thu Apr 8 21:44:30 BST 1999


Hello all ........................

An account of the march to Geaorges Hill, Surrey, on Saturday the 3rd of 
April 1999, to commenerate Greard Winnstanley and the 350th Anniversary of 
the Diggers (1st April 1649).
"The work we are going about is this, to dig up George hill and the waste 
ground there abouts, and to sow Corn, and to our breads together by the 
sweat of our brows."
Gerard Winnstanley & 14 others.
The true Levellers standard advance, April 1649

The Diggers march set out from Walton-on-Thames at just after 12:30pm on 
saturday.  The point of the march was to comemerate the 350th Anniversary 
of the Diggers who first set out to "claimthe land as a common treaury for 
all".  And to erect a stone, in honour of Gerard Winstanley, at George Hill 
in Surrey (just outside London) which is currently claimed by 'St Georges 
golf course'.
At 12:30. the Town Crier of Brighton and Hove rang her bell, and in clear 
tones quoted Gerard Winstanely from his "New Years gift for Parliament and 
armie" in 1650.
"Yet my mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts did 
run in me, that words and writings were all nothing and, must die, for 
action is the life of all, and if thou does not act, thou dost nothing."
And with this the event was in motion.  People met and talked, and told 
each other new thing, and the stone which we were to erect was there, laid 
out on a very adequate and solid cart.  "The cart was built especially for 
the purpose", the craftman told me, as I joined the cart pullers in taking 
the stone to the gathering point just round the corner.  Though the stone 
is quite narrow, the cart was made out of what looked like a wheel base 
from a Morris Minor, and so we had to take it on the road as it wouldn't 
fit on the pavement.  We stood in the street and waited for the mass of the 
march to assemble in the road.  The banners were raised and the motorists 
calmed down.  We set off on to the main rod leading to Georges' hill.
Spirits were high, and the march set off on the four mile walk with a sense 
of purpose.  I counted about 280 marchers present (281 first count, 282 
second count).  Many people dressed in 'traditional costume' and quite a 
few carried shovels.   There was a wide variety of people walking. Miles 
Halliwell was also present.  He played the part of Gerard Winstanley in the 
movie about the Diggers movent in the middle of the 1600's.
There were a two small arguments with motorists on the course of the march, 
both were resolved amicably once the motorists were made aware of the 
purpose of the walk, but other than this the march went without insident, 
and ecery body was very freindly and positive.
The police directed the traffic.
We arrived at our destination at 15:45.  The gates were unlocked and there 
was minimalsecurity presence.  Tthere were several police vans on the far 
side of the green, they stayed where they were while we strode confidently 
onto the land we were claiming and the police and security left those 
assembled alone and we assembled next to wooded glade 'on some one elses 
bit !
It was difficult work pulling that cart, and it had been a privelidge to 
participate in taking that monument to its' proposed site.  It gave me 
enough time to soak up what I have been learning, research, and living 
recently, and to reflect on the significance of our actions today.  We 
struggled together to pull the monument to the site, but how the original 
Diggers must have struggled when they gave us a reason to celebrate and 
commerate their noble and visionary cause.
I assisted in the final act of up-ending the cart in order to display the 
monument to those gathered.  And once the stonecarver had balanced the 
monument, the Town Crier called our attention with more words also said to 
be from Gerald Winstanley from 'a bill of account of the most remarkeable 
sufferings that the Diggers have met with from the 1st April 1649....
" ......And here I end, having put my arm as far as my strength will go to 
advance Righteousness; I have writ, I have acted, I have peace; now I must 
wait to see the spirit do his work in the hearts of others, and whether 
 England shall be the first land, or some others, wherein truth shall sit 
down in triumph".
And then other people were invited to sing and 'rattle on'.  The first to 
speak was a man who was concerned with the issues surrounding todays' 
action.  We were all disappointed to here that the stone would not be dug 
in today because it probably would not be very long before the St. Georges' 
golf course would have it removed or trashed or both.  The golf course 
'allowing' the stone to stand would probably present the possibilty that 
people may visit the monument, and this might present a problem to the 
'owners' of 'non-members' demanding access to the land on a more regular 
basis, and I don't think that they would stand for that(!)  Our spirits 
were lifted though on the news that the stone will be going to West 
Horsley, which is apparently the town of Parson Platts', who gave the 
Diggers a bloody hard time during the land reclaimation, he is said to have 
had a lot to do with the hatred of the church toward the Diggers.  And 
would probably turn in his grave if he knew that the memorial stone 
commemerating his rival was to stand in his 'home town'.  But he need not 
turn for too long because the stone will only be there temporarily before 
it moves to (hopefully) a permanent position at George hill site.
The speaker also told us how letters will be sent to the St. Georges hill 
residents association to try to recieve their approval on the placing of 
the stone, because it is not the golf course who object to the memorial but 
the residents association.  And not suprisingly so, because they probably 
aware of how they can be seen as the 'modern day' equivelant of the wealthy 
land owners in the time of Winstanley....Does much truly change over time?
Other speakers also had their word, and the crowd listened intently, even 
through the battery powered p.a.system which had been brought along by a 
very 'up for it' individual (it was having problems with the damp 
enviroment, but warmed up after a while - nice one J).  There was a very 
audible resitle by Miles Halliwell of the words and quotes of Gerard 
Winstanley.  There were mentions on the ruling of Lord Irvine (House of 
Lords, 4th march '99) relating to "using the highway for the action of 
passing and re-passing and anything incidental to that action".  There were 
songs, and people met and talked.
Soon the time came for this action to finish.  Some people then left 
Georges hill while over half of the group went further into the estate, and 
into the residential area in order to re-claim some of the land 'owned' by 
the wealthy locals, where they hoped to set up a Diggers camp.
I did not follow straight away but stopped to carry on my conversations 
with some of the new freinds that I had met.  And then I also set off into 
the Birch woods and the golf greens to find the Diggers camp.
I was 'gob-smacked' by the place.  What a beautiful area, and an especially 
beautiful area to live in if 'one' can afford to.  I hadn't realised how 
large the area was.  I ran across the greens and through the woods, 
sweating but not tired, and passed by golfers who looked at me as though I 
was an alien or something out of the ordinary (which I suppose I was, 
especially if 'one' was to look at my shoes, which revealed my life on the 
bread line).  As I ran passed the golfers I politely said my "Good 
afternoons" and my "How do you do?"(es), but was ignored.  If they don't 
show me that they noticed me, then obviously I don't exist in their eyes. 
 Not one of them returned my polite enquiries - I generally find that snobs 
are rude and ignorant, so I didn't take offence at their problem.
"Excuse me, sir", I said to a golfer roughly of my own age group, "I don't 
suppose you've seen a bunch of 'hippies' come passed here in the last ten 
"Yes", he replied, pointing towards the car park of the 'tea house', "I saw 
a large group of people going up that way".
I said my thanks to him, and before running on I paused to say something to 
a woman who I can only presume was his mother, "It must be so wonderful for 
you to be able to come and play golf here, it's very beautiful.  There's 
nowhere like this to play golf where I come from.  You are very lucky !". 
 I sid this to her in the vague hope that she might notice the difference 
in perseption between us, but she didn't look at me, and said quite simply, 
"Yes we are, aren't we!"
Maybe I wouldn't see her as a stuck up cow if she had only looked at me and 
seen me smiling at her in a freindly manner.  My attention was drawn to a 
few people who were calling me from the club house and gesturing off into 
the trees passed the car park.  As I approached them I could here that they 
were shouting, "Through the car park, turn right, up the hill, and turn 
left!".  I went in the direction that they had told me to go, wondering 
whether they were actually sending me to the main exit.  These thoughts 
very quickly left my mind, and my running slowed to a walk as I used the 
private road to go up the hill that I had been directed up.  I found myself 
walking through a 'residential utopia', the likes of which I had never seen 
before.  The area looked very familiar but only in the sense that it 
reminded me of the type of place which I would like to think that we should 
all be able to live in, a clean space with some nature around, with houses 
big enough to allow communal living, each house could be an alternative 
centre in its' own right in this type of setting.
It is a quite place.  No cars.  Trees full of bird song.  It's a shame that 
only the select few get to see this place, let alone live in it !  So I 
pressed on, now more determined to find the camp.
I came to the top of the hill where the road forks left and right, I was 
unsure which way to go for fear of being 'captured' and booted back into 
'the outside world'.  Within seconds of arriving at the junction I saw a 
car coming my way, and I could make out that this was a St. Georges 
security car.  For a moment I thought that 'they' would escort me to the 
exit, but on flagging down the driver and enquiring as to the whereabouts 
of the camp, to my suprise the security guard said, "Hop in, I'll give you 
a lift there", so in I hopped, and suddenly there I was.....at the gateway 
to the Diggers camp.
Drawing on my youth experience I climbed under the gate, being sure not to 
cause any 'criminal damage' on my way in, and found to my joy that tents 
and yurts (don't know how to spell that one) and a large kitchen were 
already being erected.  A fire was just being started, and the mood was 
very freindly and relaxed.  I had expected that by now, what with my late 
arrival, I would arrive to see people being turfed off by the security and 
plod.  Not so.  In fact quite the opposite.  Just a couple of police and 
security and well over a hundred people 'digging in'.
We formed a human chain to move supplies and possesions in quickly, whilst 
people began preparing food in the by now built kitchen area, and others 
sang songs around the by now roaring fire.
At 17:40 two inspectors turned up to check it out.  They pointed out that 
damage may be occuring to the gate, and so some people found some materials 
to create a makeshift stile.  That (I think) was about all they had to 
grumble about, and they were gone within ten minutes.  Later on a 'local' 
man turned up at the gate and exchanged pleasentries with his new 
neighbours.  The whole scene was a very relaxed atmosphere, and as it came 
closer to darkness I felt that I really didn't want to leave the site, and 
would have liked to stay for at least a couple of days.
Unfortunately though this was not possible, and it was sonn time for me and 
my friend to leave.  We left the camp at 19:55, as the fire began to roar 
and the merriments continued.   We managed to get a lift back to the start 
point of the march from where we made our way back home.......What an 
enlightening day.  The event made such a lot of sense to me, and through 
participating in the action I am left feeling closer to and with a clearer 
understanding of the reasons for it, and not only a clearer picture of the 
historical events, but also a greater understanding of the relevance of our 
It seems true to me that social issues and struggles that were alive in the 
1600's are still relevant in society today, without knowing what has gone 
before in history I only have an understanding, but after participating in 
the action that we did today and learning more about the history of the 
land and its' people I feel like that understanding is growing and the new 
kknowledge that I have has (again raised my confidence and awareness.
After todays action I feel inspired, and am thirsty for more knowledge, 
understanding, and action.  And I thank everyone who took part for the 
passive nature of the demonstration, nice one everyone !!
"They hang the man and flog the woman
that steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
that steal the common from the goose."

(traditional rhyme)

tash at gn.apc.org

PHOTOGRAPHER - One Eye on the Road.

"It is not enough to curse the darkness.
It is also necessary to light a lamp!!"


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