This t shirt remembers the time during the English Civil War of of dissenting religious views and radical politics. The world that people knew was turned upside down as new ideas spread throughout the land. The woodcut shows The Diggers "Beginning to Plant and Manure the Waste land upon George-Hill, in the parish of Walton, in the County of Surrey." The words underneath the woodcut are by Winstanley and taken from the The True Levellers Standard Advanced:"England is not a free people, till the poor that have no land, have a free allowance to dig and labour the commons."
The Diggers or True Levellers (so named to distinguish them from another group who also used this title) were one of the more influential groups. Their agenda was ferociously egalitarian with an emphasis on the right of the ordinary people to have access to land in order to support themselves. Up until this point ownership of land was reserved for the privileged and wealthy, and furthermore acted as a qualification for the right to vote and hunt.
Their articulate and charismatic leader was Gerrard Winstanley, who established a community of like minded people at St George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey by seizing the land and taking it back into common ownership. Their manifesto was to "Work together, Eate Bread together, Declare this all abroad."
The occupation ended badly with The Diggers being violently evicted and imprisoned. Their legacy however was to provide an exemplar of what was possible with collective action, and their endeavours have acted as an inspiration for generations of future agitators. The acute and unintended irony is that St George's Hill would eventually become the epicentre of an area of privileged wealth known as the "stock broker belt", and St George's Hill is now an exclusive gated community.
Read: Hill,Christopher (1972)). The World Turned Upside Down. London. Penguin. The classic account of The Diggers and other dissenting and radical groups that proliferated during this period.
Watch: Winstanley. 1975. Kevin Brownlow (Dir.) A resolutely monochrome and austere depiction of life in Winstanley's radical community.You can watch on a free trial here:
The clip below gives a brief flavour of the mood with a low key rendition of The Diggers Song.
Listen: Punk poet Attila the Stockbroker now also leads a band called Barnstormer 1649. They play a mixture of punk and early music and their songs recount some of the tumultuous events around the time of the civil war on the album Restoration Tragedy. You can hear some of the songs on Soundcloud here:
Opportunities to hear and see them live can be found on the band website here:
Visit: You can visit the sites associated with Winstanley and The Diggers with reference to the Diggers Trail, the link for which is below:
Celebrate: There is an annual festival celebrating the legacy of Winstanley in Wig,an, his birth place in September. Details can be found here: