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The Surrey Diggers Trail
Elmbridge Museum

The 17th century Diggers started a protest movement local to modern-day Elmbridge, but their ideas have attained national and international significance.

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About the Project

The Surrey Diggers Trail was initially created in 2005 by a group of interested historians and residents who formed the Elmbridge Diggers Heritage Group. The Group was a non-profit making association, set up to administer a grant made to create the Trail and the associated website which had been supported by Elmbridge Museum; Elmbridge Borough Council; Natural EnglandNationwide; Heritage Lottery Fund and the RC Sherriff Rosebriars Trust.

Following the creation of the Trail, the website, commissioning and final display of the Winstanley mosaic in Cobham; the work of the Group was completed. The official trail opening took place in April 2005, the 356th anniversary of the start of the Diggers community.

Nearly 15 years later, in October 2019, Elmbridge Museum was approached by the Citizens Project team at Royal Holloway, University of London. From 2017, the team there had been working with local schools and museums to develop a variety of resources which explored themes of protest and liberty.

Supported by the Heritage Fund, our aim was to redevelop the original but now outdated Surrey Diggers Trail, producing in its place an accessible and engaging trail tracking the story of the Diggers across the borough of Elmbridge. We did this by researching and filming a series of five fascinating videos, so that all learners can follow and enhance their understanding of this important part of our national history.

Since launching the video series, the project’s legacy has continued. Using her specialist research and expertise of the Digger Movement, our Academic in Residence Lívia Bernardes Roberge has produced a series of blogs and a new suite of children’s worksheets which explore important aspects of the story in more detail.

Scroll down to explore.

Who were the Diggers?

In the wake of the English Civil War, a number of radical groups emerged onto the political landscape.

In this introductory video, Professor Justin Champion introduces the three most prominent of these radical groups – the Diggers, Levellers, and Ranters – and outlines their key ideologies.

View more videos on Royal Holloway's History Hub YouTube channel

The Surrey Diggers Trail


Route overview

This map shows the points on the Surrey Diggers Trail, which spans across Cobham, Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames. Scroll through the points to see the full trail route.

The Diggers were a radical group that emerged across Elmbridge in the mid-1600s. Led by Gerrard Winstanley, they believed that all men were equal and that freedom from poverty and oppression could be won if the Earth were made a ‘common treasury for all’. After setting up communes and digging the common land to grow food, strong opposition meant they were violently driven away. Yet their ideas and writings are still remembered across the world today.

Each of the following pinpointed locations played a key part in the Digger Movement as it unfolded across what is now the borough of Elmbridge. Track the story of the Diggers from their humble beginnings in Cobham to their eventual end by following the route. You can find trail boards at each location telling the story piece-by-piece.

Further down the page, you can find explanatory videos, maps, articles and extra resources for each stop along the way.

Stop 1

The trail begins in Cobham High Street, in the pedestrianized walkway separating Hollyhedge Road from the main High Street.

It is here that we introduce Gerrard Winstanley, the Digger leader. This stop examines Gerrard’s arrival in the village in 1643, as the English Civil War raged and his radical ideas developed.

Stop 1 Cobham High Street

The Diggers Trail board on Cobham High Street, backing onto the Digger mosaic on the wall of number 2A.

Go to stop 1

Stop 2

Moving west along the A245 and then north up Seven Hills Road brings us onto the second stop on the trail at Queens Place, a footpath just off Queen’s Road.

It was just over a mile away from this site, on St. George’s Hill, that the Diggers first took radical action here in 1649 by digging the land and starting their own commune.

Stop 2 Queen's Place (3)

Go to stop 2

Stop 3

Travelling north from the previous stop firstly along Queens Road, then Ashley Road, Walton High Street, and then turning right to proceed down Churchfield Road, brings you to Church Walk. Situated within St. Mary’s Churchyard, this is where stop 3 of our trail can be found.

It was at this very site, in 1649, that the Diggers were imprisoned by angry locals. In this stop we examine the local reaction to the Diggers, and how their occupation of St. George’s Hill  ended.

Stop 3 St Mary's Church Walton (2)

The Diggers Trail board at St. Mary’s Church, facing out from the churchyard onto Church Road.

Got to stop 3

Stop 4

From St Mary’s Church, travelling along the A244 towards Esher, then south down Portsmouth Road and turning left to progress down Fairmile Lane, and right again down Water Lane, will bring you to our fourth and final stop at Littleheath Lane.

The Diggers’ story in Surrey did not end with their eviction from St. George’s Hill, and they quickly moved on to this site, in Cobham. Here, we examine how their ideas and new commune grew, and investigate how and why the Digger Movement finally ended for good.

Stop 4 Little Heath (2)

The Diggers Trail Stop 4 board, at Littleheath Lane. It can be found in the stretch between Links Green Way and Knipp Hill, backing onto Fairmile Park.

Go to stop 4

Local Landmark Point

This local landmark can be visited at any point in your journey along the trail. Here, on Brooklands Road backing onto Cobbetts Hill, you will find the Digger Memorial stone commemorating the Diggers’ actions in Surrey and their legacy.

At this stop, you can find information on what happened to Gerrard Winstanley after the Digger Movement, and how the group have become recognised both nationally and internationally in the years since their radical actions.

Info point Cobbett's Hill

Local Landmark: information on the Diggers Memorial Stone at Cobbetts Hill, facing onto Brooklands Road.

Gerrard Wisntanley Memorial Stone, Weybridge. Source: Photo taken by the author on 22 May 2021.

The Diggers Memorial Stone at this site.

Go to the Local Landmark Point

Stop 1

2A High Street, Cobham

War and Winstanley: The origins of the Diggers

In the particularly turbulent years after the execution of Charles I, the Diggers attempted to re-establish their rights to farm commonland, a right that had been removed by the medieval feudal system. The ideas about equality held by their leader, Gerrard Winstanley, are still regarded today as one of the roots of modern day Communist thought.

In our first video, we introduce Gerrard Winstanley, the civil war radical who led the Digger movement.

Stop 2

Queens Place, Weybridge

The Diggers arrive at St. George's Hill

The Diggers first broke the ground at St. George’s Hill on 1st April 1649 as they set out to make the earth a ‘common treasury for all’. The Hill is the place usually associated with their project and ideas, and it is from here that their influence, and the practice of Digging, spread to many parts of England.

In our second video, the Diggers set up their camp in Weybridge.

Stop 3

Church Walk, Walton-on-Thames

St. Mary's Church, Protests and Prison

The Diggers attracted much opposition from local landowners. Following one attack on their crops and animals, some of them were arrested and imprisoned in the church where they were beaten up by the ‘rude multitude’. Although parts have been restored and rebuilt, St Mary’s Church today is substantially as the Diggers would have known it in 1649.

In our third video, we hear about the role played by St Mary’s Church in the Diggers’ story, from a site of protest to a makeshift prison.

Stop 4

Littleheath Lane, Cobham

Big trouble on Little Heath

The Diggers are usually remembered for their action on St. George’s Hill, but after being violently evicted they moved back to Cobham. Here, the group enjoyed much more success, although if they had hoped for less hostility they were disappointed. In April, landowners drove the remaining Diggers from Little Heath in a final series of attacks.

In our fourth video, we follow Winstanley and the Diggers’ second attempt to establish their commune at Little Heath.

Local Landmark Point

The Digger Memorial, Cobbetts Hill, Brooklands Road

The significance and legacy of the Diggers

After being driven out of both St. George’s Hill and Little Heath, attempts to start up new Digger settlements in other counties like Hertfordshire also failed. Contemporaries, no doubt, viewed the movement as a dismal failure, yet, the persistence of the Diggers’ story in local, national and international memory certainly proves otherwise.

In this video, we examine the legacy and significance of the Diggers in the modern day.

Learning Resources

Why not try out the worksheets which accompany each of our trail videos? Suitable for KS3/4 level, each worksheet encourages history students to make notes on the video before using their knowledge to tackle some more in depth questions.

For answers, download our teacher’s notes here.

Download ( 1.17 mb)pdf icon

WorksheetsThe Worksheets

When completing each worksheet, take a look at the questions first and then watch the corresponding video, pausing it when you need to make notes. Each worksheet relates directly to a stop on the trail, outlined in the titles below. Click each of the titles to download the worksheet.

Stop 1 – War and Winstanley, the origins of the Diggers

Stop 2 – The Diggers arrive at St. George’s Hill

Stop 3 – St. Mary’s Church, Protests and Prison

Stop 4 – Big trouble on Little Heath

Local Landmark – The significance and legacy of the Diggers


Online Workshop

Early Modern Prints Workshop Gerrard Winstanley was able to spread his message across England by publishing pamphlets. Explore the impact of the printing press on print culture and how it is relevant to the world today!

go to Early Modern Prints Workshop
Lívia Bernardes RobergeLívia Bernardes Roberge

The Diggers Blogs

By our Academic in Residence

Elmbridge Museum’s new Academic in Residence, Lívia Bernardes Roberge, is using her specialist expertise on the Digger Movement to produce a series of blogs and a suite of children’s worksheets which explore important aspects of the story in more detail.

Currently studying for her PhD at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and working as a visiting researcher at the University of Sheffield, Lívia is developing fresh research into the Diggers. She is interested in cultural history and the history of political thought, particularly on the subject of representations and identity formation in Early Modern Britain.

Learn more about Lívia's work as our Academic in Residence here

Discover all of the Diggers blogs so far

In each blog, Lívia uses her cutting-edge research to explore the local Diggers in more detail, investigating how their ideas and challenges can link back to us today.

About the Academic in Residence Find out more about the work and research of Lívia Bernardes Roberge, our current Academic in Residence, including how she came to study the Diggers and why she thinks the group is so important within an international historical setting.

read more
1. Gerrard Winstanley and the impact of the Civil Wars on the lives of common people The first in our Academic in Residence blogs, looking in more detail at Digger leader Gerrard Winstanley and how he was affected by the English Civil War.

read more
2. From pamphlet wars to Twitter wars: print and opinion in seventeenth century England Investigate the development of the printing press, and the repercussions this had for Early Modern society - including emerging radical groups - during the Civil War.

read more
4. Identity matters: the story of how the diggers became the Diggers Discover how the Diggers came to gain their name, and acquired their own unique identity amid the 17th century political landscape.

read more
3. Seventeenth century squatters? The Diggers and the occupation of St. George’s Hill Learn about the motivations behind the Diggers' occupation of St. George's Hill in 1649, and explore some modern comparisons.

read more
5. The aftermath of the St George’s Hill occupation: The Diggers and the locals' reaction We look at how the inhabitants of local communities reacted to the occupation of St George’s Hill, and the many perils that the Diggers faced.

read more
New blog coming soon! In blog 7, Lívia will explore the modern-day significance of the Digger Movement and how their ideas have been appropriated today.

6. The aftermath of the Diggers at Little Heath Read about some of the new challenges the Diggers faced in their last days at Little Heath, and how the movement finally reached its end.

read more

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Who were the Diggers?
The Trail: Overview
Start the Trail
Learning Resources
The Diggers Blogs
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