On Saturday 12 September , two of our London members went by train from Waterloo station to Cobham in Surrey, for the unveiling of the Gerrard Winstanley plaque in the local parish church of St Andrew .
Fortunately we had a map of the area with us, as the god-box is situated about a 20 minute walk from the rural station. Judging by the property details in estate agents' windows, the average house price here is around £600,000, and as we passed one such shop one prospective buyer was heard to say to the other, "This one has only an outdoor pool not an indoors one"! Yes, Cobham is a salubrious location, no car is little, au pairs out with baby and typical so-called middle-class ambience, in what is said to be the wealthiest county in the land.
We arrived at our destination in time to have a chat with the local resident historian, David Taylor, stating that we were from the Socialist Party and had come to the unveiling ceremony. He allowed us to leave photocopies of the June 1978 Socialist Standard article, "Winstanley: a 17th Century Utopian Socialist" in the small exhibition display table inside the C of E building, at the front of the table and therefore prominent surrounded by about 10 or so books about the Digger Movement published over the past 60 years or so. Of the 50 copies taken by us, about 36 were taken by visitors to this Cobham Heritage Day event, probably because it was the only literature amongst the few items for sale that was free.
Daniel Boulton, the local vicar and the Professor of Biblical Exegesis at Oxford University made three speeches about Winstanley and he even stressed that Gerrard was not opposed to private property but only wished for common ownership of common lands !! Needless to say even this got up the noses of the local gentry. The plaque itself was designed by a wine-label designer who lives locally and is about 2' wide and 18" high, hardly at all conspicuous and the writing cut around the border of the small tablet is scarcely legible at a distance.
There were several dozen people apparently, according to David Taylor, from all over the country, interested enough to attend the unveiling. We talked to a London Party councillor representing a Labour History group, and another woman, a Christian Socialist teacher, whose most ardent desire was to bring history into the classroom, emphasising the importance of the mythical ascension god Jesus on her charges.
We bought copies of "Gerrard Winstanley and the Republic of Heaven" by David Boulton, Dales Historical Monograph, 1999 at £9.00 and "Gerrard Winstanley in Elmbridge", Appelton Publications, 2000, at £4.95.
Amongst the works in the exhibition were:
"The Works of Gerrard Winstanley". Ed George H. Sabine. Cornell UP, 1941
"The Alchemy of Revolution. Gerrard Winstanley Occultism and 17th century English Radical Christian Writings". Ed Andrew Bradstock and Christopher Rowland.
"Winstanley and the Diggers 1644-1999". Ed Andrew Bradstock. Frank Cash, 2000.
"Digger Tracts 1649-50". Ed Andrew Horton, Aporia Press.
I must also mention "The Digger Movement in the Days of the Commonwealth" , H. Berens, reprinted Dodo Press recently, and "Brave Community. The Digger Movement in the English Revolution", John Gurney , Manchester UP, 2007, reviewed in the Socialist Standard .
Throughout the day, "Winstanley" , a film directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, published by the BFI as a DVD, was showing in the exhibition area.
P.S. Even a food faddist enjoyed the cream tea in the Community Hall garden, but what really took the biscuit was the Duck Race – ducks flying, swimming or walking you might wonder? but no; hundreds of numbered yellow bath-ducks in Cobham mill-pond the vast majority becalmed and bunched at the side of the pond with only 5 or 6 of such creatures drifting slowly to the finishing line, the winner receiving a prize from the gold-chained mayor of Elmbridge. Has the memory of the Levellers and the Diggers been reduced to this – but it was anyway.
For more about the Diggers see here