In 1649, Winstanley and his followers took over vacant or common lands in Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Kent, and Northamptonshire and began cultivating the land and distributing the crops without charge to their followers. Local landowners took fright from the Diggers’ activities and in 1650 sent hired thugs to beat the Diggers and destroy their colony. Winstanley protested to the government, but to no avail, and the colony was abandoned.
After the failure of the Digger experiment in Surrey in 1650 Winstanley temporarily fled to Pirton, Hertfordshire, where he took up employment as an estate steward for the mystic aristocrat Lady Eleanor Davies. This employment lasted less than a year after Davies accused Winstanley of mismanaging her property and Winstanley returned to Cobham.
Winstanley continued to advocate the redistribution of land. In 1652 he published another pamphlet called The Law of Freedom in a Platform, in which he argued that the Christian basis for society is where property and wages are abolished. In keeping with Winstanley’s adherence to biblical models, the tract envisages a communistic society structured on patriarchal lines.
John met the rebel leaders at Runnymede, near both the royal fortress of Windsor Castle and the rebel base at Staines, on 10 June 1215, where they presented him with their draft demands for reform, the “Articles of the Barons”. Stephen Langton’s pragmatic efforts at mediation over the next ten days turned these incomplete demands into a charter capturing the proposed peace agreement; a few years later, this agreement was renamed Magna Carta, meaning “Great Charter”. By 15 June, general agreement had been made on a text, and on 19 June, the rebels renewed their oaths of loyalty to John and copies of the charter were formally issued.