On this day in history, 370 years ago…

On this day 370 years ago the True Levellers or “Diggers”, led by William Everard and Gerrard Winstanley, established a colony to cultivate common land at St Georges Hill in Surrey and later at Cobham Heath. Digger communities were started in Surrey, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire but they all suffered intimidation, violence and arson. Winstanley published his pamphlet “The True Levellers Standard Advanced” which declared the world as a common treasury. He also wrote to General Fairfax the tract, “A LETTER TO The Lord Fairfax, AND His Councell of War, WITH Divers Questions to the Lawyers, and Ministers: Proving it an undeniable Equity, That the common People ought to dig, plow, plant and dwell upon the Commons, with-out hiring them, or paying Rent to any”. Fairfax met twice with Winstanley and concluded that the “Diggers” were peaceful and harmless. He recommended that the objectors take their case to the courts but the Digger initiative was quelled with wanton violence from the local landowners by 1652.

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