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Call For Guildford To Proclaim Itself As The Cradle Of English Democracy

Published on: 20 Jun, 2017
Updated on: 22 Jun, 2017

A little-known event that occurred in Guildford in 1647 could give the borough reason to claim the town as the cradle of English democracy.

In 1647 radical delegates from Parliament’s ‘New Model Army’ and leaders of the Leveller movement met in Guildford to formulate their demands for a post Civil War settlement in England.

A pamphlet relating to The Case Of The ‘Army’ Truly Stated. From the website of Andrew Whitehead.

They produced a document, The Case of the Armie Truly Stated, which, among other things, contained the very first call for universal (male – though there were female Levellers) suffrage in England.

This was long before the 19th century Chartists and similar who are more normally connected with this demand.

The Truly Stated pamphlet in turn fed into the famous 1647 Putney Debates, which Oliver Cromwell attended and were a event of unquestioned and lasting national importance.

Illustration of the Putney Debates.

Accordingly, local author John Whitbourn has written to Guildford Borough Council to see if there might be interest in marking the 370th anniversary of Guildford’s part in this historic event – which falls this October.

And especially so given that the Levellers’ visit (with just a little poetic license) might accordingly entitle Guildford to proclaim and publicise itself as ‘The Cradle of English Democracy’!

Back in 1997, John similarly prompted the commemoration of another event which had up to then entirely passed from Guildford collective memory.

This was the town’s part in the 500th anniversary of the 1497 Cornish Rebellion army passing by the town, en route to bloody defeat at Deptford.

John wrote a long article on the subject that was published in the Surrey Advertiser and liaised with the Cornish Nationalist Commemorative march retracing the route.

Where can this memorial stone be found?

Memorial stone on The Mount, Guildford, that commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Cornish march to London in 1497.

There was a well-attended re-enactment of the associated skirmish that occurred on the Hog’s Back and a civic reception for the Cornish marchers.

That event went off well, bringing recognition and benefit to Guildford. Therefore so might marking of the Levellers’ momentous visit in 1647.

Subsequently, Guildford could make a bid to stand alongside Runnymede with its Magna Carta links in the development of English democracy.

John also says that Guildford could do with some “well-deserved national recognition, aside from the usual lazy journo disrespect of saying we’re just a stockbroker hive”.

He is currently awaiting a reply from Guildford Borough Council.

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Responses to Call For Guildford To Proclaim Itself As The Cradle Of English Democracy

  1. Ciaran Doran Reply

    June 23, 2017 at 10:22 am

    So Guildford has a history of being a bit rebellious – perhaps we should wake that rebellious nature up again and fight for a proper and right solution to the crazy situation in which our beloved country finds itself.

    • John Perkins Reply

      June 23, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      In reply to Ciaran Doran:

      The writer appears to be suggesting that mob violence is a proper answer to democratic rule.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    June 23, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Why is 370th anniversary a significant one to mark an event which most of history has forgotten?

    Especially at a time when both Guildford Borough Council and Diocese of Guildford are struggling to meet their budgets.

  3. John Whitbourn Reply

    June 24, 2017 at 8:48 am

    It’s an idea, Ciaran. Maybe Guildford could have it’s own ‘Day of Rage’ and, for instance, (peacefully as possible) tear down, brick by brick, the Friary Centre, our town’s simultaneous homage to Pyongyang State Penitentiary and bid to achieve twinning status with Mordor.

    And maybe Debenhams too, to reveal the River Wey again.

    In fact, there is a school of thought that rioting is the modern way to attract Government funding and regard. But that is not something any sensible or responsible citizen would advocate.

    Also, historically speaking, the omens aren’t good. One time when we previously tried it, back in May 1648, delegates from Surrey trying to present a petition to Parliament were shot down by soldiers. Ten dead and 100 wounded, allegedly. Which taught them a lesson they never forgot. Or so I should imagine.

    Curiously enough, back in circa 1990 or 1991 there was a ‘Sealed Knot’ or ‘English Civil War Society’ event held in Guildford Castle grounds, attended by an avowedly Leveller artillery unit, complete with political tracts (maybe even the ‘Case of the Armie…’) tucked into their hatbands. On entry, visitors could choose a coloured ribbon to wear, to show their Civil War allegiance – orange for Parliament and blue for the King, as best I recall. I didn’t think to ask at the time, but maybe the Leveller unit’s presence was more than coincidence and a conscious reference to the Guildford gathering in 1647.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    How comforting that Guildford was a cradle of democracy.

    Too bad that the GBC executive appears to be unaware of the meaning of democracy, given it’s preoccupation with driving through its discredited local plan, against the wishes of the majority of residents.

    It may have been born here, but the grass is now growing over the grave of democracy in Guildford.

  5. Valerie Thompson Reply

    June 29, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Where is democracy now? GBC rides rough-shod over its residents and makes decisions against all objections.

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