The eviction of anti-capitalist protesters from outside St Paul's Cathedral has begun, the City of London Corporation said.

After police and bailiffs arrived at the site, the corporation said it had begun to enforce the High Court orders for the removal of the tents and equipment.

"We regret that it has come to this but the High Court judgment speaks for itself and the Court of Appeal has confirmed that judgment," its statement said.

Occupy London was refused permission by the Court of Appeal last week to challenge orders evicting protesters from the site which has been home to the camp since October 15 last year.

Granting orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London at the High Court last month, Mr Justice Lindblom said the proposed action by the City of London Corporation - which it pledged not to enforce pending appeal - was "entirely lawful and justified", as well as necessary and proportionate.

The appeal judges, headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, said that the protesters had raised no arguable case.

Just after 1am officials in orange jackets and helmets swept in to start removing the main cluster of tents, with a line of police behind them. Tents and pallets were carried out across the church yard, leaving a carpet of litter on the cobbles.

Moments earlier, campaigner Gary Sherborne, 50, dismantled his tent, having been warned by police that action was imminent.

He said: "We haven't got any choice and I'd rather protect the tent for another day without it being destroyed by the bailiffs. I think people are resigned to the fact they might lose their tent. It's only tents and materials the injunction applies to so I think some protesters will be back here tomorrow. I think the police have acted honourably so far. We'll just have to see how this process pans out."

Meanwhile, a group of protesters remained defiant, waving flags and banging tambourines on top of a makeshift wooden structure facing the cathedral. A City of London Police spokesman said "a small minority of protesters obstructed the work of bailiffs" and 20 arrests had been made by 4.30am. He added: "The operation was largely peaceful."