St George's Hill

The Diggers first broke the ground on St George's Hill on 1st April 1649 as they set out to make the earth a 'common treasury for all'. The Hill is the place usually associated with their project and ideas, and it is from here that their influence, and the practice of Digging, spread to many parts of England.

The actual site of their Digging is thought to have been on the lower, southern slopes of the Hill. One contemporary account describes it as being 'next to Campe Close', which probably corresponds with the Camp End Road of today. The Diggers hoped that many would join them in their work, and for months their activity was one of the biggest news stories of the day -- ''the talk of the whole Land' as one of their letters put it. It was from St George's Hill that they issued their famous manifesto, The True Levellers Standard Advanced, in April 1649.

As the Diggers' influence increased, so did the hostility of local landowners. Prominent among these was the lord of the manor, Francis Drake. With two violent accomplices, John Taylor and William Starr, Drake organised gangs to attack the Diggers and destroy their houses, crops and animals. Drake hoped that the army would help him to suppress the Diggers, but after visiting their settlement General Fairfax concluded they were doing no harm.

Following a court case against the Diggers - at which they were forbidden to speak in their own defence - and further attacks, they abandoned St George's Hill in August 1649. They established a new settlement at Little Heath, near Cobham, where they were active until finally evicted at Easter 1650.

Next site: Cobham Centre.