Who owns St George’s Hill, birthplace of the Diggers?

Who owns England?

Image: Still from the film Winstanley, 1975.

In April 1649, Gerrard Winstanley and a rag-tag band calling themselves ‘Diggers’ set up camp on St George’s Hill in Surrey, and made history.

There is a widespread misconception that the Diggers had chosen to cultivate common land. In fact, St George’s Hill was probably Crown Land – which, following the execution of Charles I, had become of uncertain ownership. The Diggers were one amongst various millennarian cults of the post-monarchy era who were convinced that with the death of the king, a new era had dawned.

For Winstanley, that new era heralded the end of private property and a chance to throw off the ‘Norman yoke’ of elite landownership that had enslaved the common people of England since 1066. “The earth is a common treasury for all”, he proclaimed, “both rich and poor, that every one that is born in the…

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