The Diggers movement began in Surrey in April 1649, two months after the execution of King Charles I. The name comes from the practice of digging and manuring the 'waste' and common land, which was what they did both to grow food and to show that everybody had a right to enjoy the Earth and its fruits.
Diggers believed that freedom from poverty, hunger and oppression could be won if the Earth were made a 'Common Treasury for all'. They set up communal settlements and encouraged everybody to come and join them. The brutality of their opponents meant they did not survive for long, but their writings and ideas continue to inspire people throughout the world today.
The Diggers are usually remembered for their action on St George's Hill, but after being violently evicted from there they wrote:
In Cobham on the Little Heath our digging there goes on. And all our friends they live in love, as if they were but one.
From A Watch-Word to the City of London and the Armies, August 1649.
Here they enjoyed more success: eleven acres were cultivated, six houses built, winter crops harvested, and several influential pamphlets published. Their numbers also increased, and among those whose names first appear at this time is Anthony Wren, who is believed to have lived in a cottage which still stands in The Ridings, Cobham.
If the Diggers hoped for less hostility here than at St George's Hill they were disappointed. Parson John Platt, lord of the Manor of Cobham, after professing sympathy with them became their chief enemy. He organised gangs to attack the Diggers and their crops and houses. He also used his power as landlord to prevent local people from supporting them.
When the pressure became intense early in 1650 two Diggers set out from Cobham to visit other communities in the south and midlands to appeal for support and funds. They eventually reached Wellingborough where they were arrested. In April Parson Platt and other landowners finally drove The Diggers from Littleheath.