St Mary's Church, Walton

This Walton church appears three times in the story of the Diggers.

One Sunday in April 1649 the church was invaded by a group of radical soldiers. They took over the service and announced that ministers, magistrates, tithes and the Sabbath were all abolished.

At the same time the Diggers were abolishing the Sabbath in a practical way on St George's Hill by digging, planting and settling on waste land there.

It is not certain that a connection between the two actions was intended, but one was soon made when a Digger from the hill appeared in the church and 'getting up a great burden of thorns and briars thrust them in the pulpit to stop out the Parson'.

The Diggers attracted opposition from local landowners. The lord of the manor, Francis Drake, organised attacks on them and their crops and animals.

Following one attack, some Diggers were arrested and imprisoned in the church where they wre beaten up by the 'rude multitude'. A magistrate later released them without charge.

Further assaults on the Diggers followed, and after another incident five of their number were arrested and imprisoned in the church. This time they were transferred to prison in Kingston before being released.

Although parts have been restored and rebuilt, St Mary's Church is substantially as the Diggers would have known it in 1649.

Next site: Cobbetts Hill.