Ever wondered why communal members of our garden are called “Diggers”?
Yesterday I took a break from cleaning up the yard and wandered to the Post Office to collect the mail. A belated birthday parcel from our wandering woodworker son, Lachie, made my day. It included ‘Allotments’ a delightful little book published by The National Trust and subtitled ‘Inspiration and practical advice for would-be smallholders.’ He’d picked it up on a visit to The Eden Project in Cornwall, thought of our community garden and suggested I share its knowledge with plotholders.
I do love proper old-fashioned mail, especially parcels! So I sat in the glorious Spring sunshine, munching apples and cheese while reading the background to the UK’s public garden allotment system referred to by the book’s title. It explained that the Saxons were able to hold land for common usage but after the Norman conquests, land ownership was chiefly in the hands of the crown, the nobility and the church. Then …
“In 1649 one Gerrard Winstanley led a group of hungry men in protest that the common people of England had been robbed of their birthrights by the Normans. They took over common land in St George’s Hill, Surrey in a mass protest and became known as ‘Diggers’. With food prices at an all-time high, they began, scandalously, to cultivate it. Winstanley claimed that all men had a ‘right to dig’… all men, he said, were equal. The movement spread and although the growing of peas and beans seems mild enough, the Diggers were subdued. Nevertheless, the basic ‘right to dig’ concept still holds true today.” ( Eastoe, J. 2009).
Such rebellious spirit speaks to the ‘descendant of Eureka’ blood in my veins. A proud tradition continues through the ‘Diggers’ of Newstead (and Barwon Heads Arts Garden who provided the membership model). Thanks Lach!