PRESS RELEASES FROM THE DIGGERS AT ST GEORGE'S HILL, WEYBRIDGE DICTATED AT 13.55 ON 4 APRIL 1999 300 Diggers reposess St George's Hill On Saturday 3rd April 1999, 300 activists marched to St George's Hill, Weybridge, Surrey to erect a memorial stone to The Diggers, 350 years after the initial occupation of this once common land. Following the rally to the original Diggers site, the activists marched to a nearby part of the hill to establish a communal settlement in the spirit of the original Diggers. The activists have been negotiating with Saint George's Hill residents association, Saint George's Hill Golf Club and North Surrey Water (alleged land owners) in their aim to erect a memorial stone to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the historic Diggers encampment. The handcrafted memorial stone has been temporarily erected on the newly occupied site and activists have pledged to stay until a permanent and publically accessible home has been agreed and established. The activists have recently become aware that in 1952 land elsewhere on the hill was donated to Elmbridge Council with public right of way. However public access to this land has not been secured. Activists are also questioning the legalities of original enclosures of common land on Saint George's Hill and elsewhwere. Contact: Tony Gosling or Annie Merry 0961 460171. Background info: www.tlio.demon.co.uk/diggers.htm There is an acre of land for everyone in Britain. Millions of homeless, tenants and mortgagees still struggle while the priviliged 'own' more 'stolen' land than they could ever use. The Diggers are committed to changing this. "For action is the life of all, and if thou doest not act, thou doest nothing' -- Gerrard Winstaley, 1649. DICTATED AT 19.18 ON 4 APRIL 1999: A meeting was held this afternoon with Mr Newberry from the residents association and a representative of the landowners, North Surrey Water. As a result, North Surrey Water agreed to donate an appropriate site on the hill for the memorial stone, subject to access details being finalised with the residents association. North Surrey Water have accepted the historical importance of this occupation. ENDSBack to Press releases Index
DICTATED AT 20.55 ON 5 APRIL: CAMPAIGNER ATTACKED AT ST GEORGE'S HILL DIGGERS COMMUNITY Surrey Police are investigating an unprovoked assault that took place at the Diggers' encampment on the St George's Hill estate. The incident happened around 4pm on Monday April 5th at the entrance to the camp. A man known to be a local resident got out of a black four-wheel drive vehicle and attempted to remove some information boards at the gate. Mark Brown from the Diggers camp asked him to stop, and was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. The man then climbed back into the vehicle and reversed at high speed towards a group of people by the entrance to the site. No-one was injured by the vehicle. This incident is reminiscent of events 350 years earlier when the original Diggers were attacked by elements of the local population. Mr Brown said: "We are here in the spirit of the Diggers but I never expected history to be repeating itsel so literally." The camp welcomes visitors. Many local residents have visited and are supportive but this is the only incident of this type. Witnesses to the incident included former residents of the estate Dr Mario Capozzi and Heather Kershaw, now living in Weybridge [phone number 01932 859553]. Further details can be obtained from the camp. Camp contacts: Tony Gosling or Annie Merry 0961 460171. Background info: www.tlio.demon.co.uk/diggers.htm or www.oneworld.org/tlio ENDSBack to Press releases Index
In 1649 to St Georges Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the peoples will,
They defied the landlords, they defied the law,
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs
Leon Rosselson - The World Turned Upside Down
On 3rd April 1999, a "ragged band" of today's dispossessed will be marching from the churchyard at Walton on Thames to St. George's Hill, the site where the Diggers first camped on 1st April 1649. The march is the cornerstone of a series of events commemorating the Diggers, drawing attention to contemporary effects of land poverty in the UK and across the world.
Digger celebrations kick off with a public meeting on 1st April at 7pm in Weybridge Library Hall, Church Street, Weybridge, Surrey - guest speakers include Scottish Land Reformer Alastair MacIntosh and there will be entertainment from, amongst others, Leon Rosselson, writer of the much-loved contemporary song about The Diggers: `The World Turned Upside Down'.
On Saturday April 3rd there will be a colourful Diggers pageant. Marchers and minstrels will make their way up St. George's Hill where they hope to unveil a Diggers memorial stone. The march begins at 12.30 at The Centre, Hepworth Way, Walton-On-Thames.
We come in peace they said, to dig and sow,
We come to work the land in common,
And to make the wastelands grow
This earth divided, we will make whole,
So it can be a common treasury for all
The Diggers, with their visionary leader Gerrard Winstanley, are one of the most inspirational groups in British history. In 1649, shortly after
the beheading of Charles I at the culmination of the English Civil War, they occupied common land at St George's Hill in Surrey and began to raise crops and build shelters. "The Earth", Winstanley wrote, "is a common treasury for all." In defiance of landlords, enclosures and Cromwell, they stood up for the right of everyone to the fundamental resource - land.
Today St George's Hill is the Beverley Hills of Britain, an enclave for the super- rich. London's most exclusive estate, it boasts an acre of land per house and it's own private golf course. In the rest of the UK the story is similar - 90% of the land owned by roughly 1% of the population. Even though in most cases our dispossession occurred many years ago, we still meet its effects at every turn:
*Derelict brownfield sites and offices are left empty for decades by speculators hoping for a windfall whilst hundreds of thousands of families are registered homeless.
*Allotment sites in cities, which are for man y the only chance of having a close relationship with the land, are being sold off to make way for luxury flats and offices.
*Group s of people seeking a more sustainable way of life are being thwarted by planning regulations which are biased in favour of high-profit development.
At the end of the millennium The Land Is Ours is working to restore this country's land to the benefit of all its inhabitants. We are putting forward a rare positive vision: a future of land for decent secure homes, community food production and a renewed sense of belonging to the land.
Diggers 350 is a celebration as well as a call to continue the battle begun by Winstanley.
For further information, contact The Land Is Ours, a landrights campaign for Britain.
Diggers 350 mobile: 0961 460171
DICTATED AT 10am ON 8 APRIL 1999 DIGGERS DEMAND ACCESS NOT EVICTION The Diggers occupying land on Saint George's Hill today released their formal access proposals for the estate -- just as they were served an eviction notice. The Diggers proposals include the establishment of a permanent home for the Diggers' memorial stone and guaranteed public acc ess to the hill. They also provide for the formulation of a management plan for the site. Access rights on Saint George's Hill are under threat and the Diggers want rights of way established before the hill is closed off to the public for good. There will be an open day at the occupied site on Sunday, during which local residents will be invited to comment on these proposals. As the Diggers have now been served with an eviction notice, this may well be the last opportunity for local residents to see the hand-sculpted stone in place on Saint George's Hill. The open day will feature interactive drama, story-telling and music around the campfire, Diggers soup and other vegetarian food, wicker-weaving, games and face painting. There will be a children's play area and a discussion about the original Diggers 350 years ago. THE DIGGERS' PROPOSAL "To make the present site of the memorial stone off Old Avenue a permanent monument to Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, with guaranteed public rights of way to the site and on the hill, subject to the agreement of a suitable management plan. This plan should take account of: security of the stone, serenity of the site, planting of vegetables and flowers, wildlife and conservation, information boards and disabled access. The Diggers will leave when agreement has been reached on these proposals with local residents, land owners North Surrey Water, Saint George's Hill residents' association and the local council." NOTES TO EDITORS 1) The open day will be held at the Diggers site on Old Avenue, Saint George's Hill, Weybridge, Surrey on Sunday 11th April 1999 from 2.30 until 7pm. The site is approximately one mile from Weybridge railway station. Drivers are requested to leave their vehicles on Old Avenue outside the security gates and walk to the community, which is approximately half-a-mile up Old Avenue. 2) Eviction notice -- The originating summons served at 7.15am on Thursday 8th April by agents for the North Surrey Water Company, whose land the Diggers are allegedly occupying, will be heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court in The Strand on Tuesday 13th April at 10.15am. ENDS
DICTATED AT 12.15pm ON 13 APRIL 1999 DIGGERS FACE EVICTION The Diggers today lost a court hearing for a possession order for the site they occupy on Saint George's Hill. The master said that Friday was the earliest date he would allow any eviction, although landowner North Surrey Water had asked for immediate possession. The Diggers' occupation has been a major victory in the on-going battle for statutary public access to Saint George's Hill. The fight will now go on a pace until democracy triumphs over the power of money. The ball is now firmly in the court of the so-called residents' association to bow to the overwhelming public pressure for public access to historic Saint Georges Hill and to desist in their plan to seal off the hill from the ordinary folk or Surrey and turn it into a super-exclusive millionaires' playground. The residents association attended hearing although they were not party to the proceedings. In all likelihood the Diggers will be leaving in a better condition than they found it before the first possible eviction date. NOTES TO EDITORS Eviction notice -- The originating summons was served at 7.15am on Thursday 8th April by agents for the North Surrey Water Company, whose land the Diggers are allegedly occupying. It was heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court in The Strand on Tuesday 13th April at 10.15am by Master Muncaster. Camp contacts: Tony Gosling or Annie Merry 0961 460171.
Press release:15 APRIL 1999
DIGGERS LEAVE ST GEORGE'S HILL The Diggers left their camp at Saint George's Hill at 2.30 on Thursday 15 April after losing a possession orde r for the site. The land rights activists took the memorial stone to the original Diggers to Elmbridge Museum, where it will stay until a permanent site has been found for it on Saint George's Hill. They have left a temporary wooden memorial planted in the earth at their camp on the hill. The High Court master ordered that no eviction could happen before Friday 16 April, so the Diggers left this afternoon to avoid confrontation. They waved banners and were accompanied by musicians as they left. NOTES TO EDITORS Eviction notice -- The originating summons was served at 7.15am on Thursday 8th April by agents for the North Surrey Water Company, whose land the Diggers occupied. It was heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court in The Strand on Tuesday 13th April at 10.15am by Master Muncaster. Camp contacts: Tony Gosling or Annie Merry 0961 460171. Background info: www.tlio.demon.co.uk/diggers.htm or www.oneworld.org/tlio Pictures of the procession are available from photographer Ben White, 0956 141016