Analyses of functional genetic diversity in natural populations may provide important new insights into gene function and are necessary to understand the evolutionary processes maintaining diversity itself. The importance of including diversity within and between local populations in such studies is often ignored although many of the processes affecting genetic diversity act on this scale. Here we examine the molecular diversity in RPW8 (Recognition of Powdery Mildew), a gene conferring broad-spectrum resistance to powdery mildews in Arabidopsis thaliana stock-center accessions. Our eight UK study populations of the weedy A. thaliana were from locations judged to be subject to a minimum of anthropogenic disturbance and potentially long established. The majority of populations comprised considerable variation both in disease phenotype and RPW8 genotype. Although resistant individuals shared a major RPW8 genotype, no single allele was uniquely associated with resistance. It is concluded that RPW8 is an essential component of resistance to powdery mildews in A. thaliana, but not the only genetic factor involved in this process. No signature of selection was detected at RPW8 with a microsatellite multilocus test using an empirical null model. Unlike many previous studies of this model plant species, we found high levels of genetic diversity and relatively low differentiation (FST = 0.31) between populations at 14 microsatellite markers. This is judged to be due to our sampling being aimed at potentially long established populations and highlights the importance of population choice for studies of genetic diversity within this species.