Burston School Strike: 1914-1939

Photo: Tom and Annie Higdon in 1938.
The Burston Strike School was at the centre of the longest running strike in British history, between 1914 and 1939.
The strike began when the two teachers at the village’s Church of England school, Annie Higdon and her husband, Tom Higdon, were sacked after a dispute with the area’s school management committee.
What a lot of people don’t know is that the Higdons in order to keep the children warm and dry in winter had exceeded the school’s firewood allowance.
This had infuriated the local Anglican hierachy who were also suspicious of the Higdons because they were were Primitive Methodists.
The Primitive Methodists were active Christians who fought for the low paid farm workers and their families and helped them to form their labour Unions.
The icing on the cake though was when Tom Higdon ran a ticket of activists against the Church at the local Council elections.
They won.
After Tom and Annie Higdon were sacked, the schoolchildren, who were intensely loyal to the couple went on strike in their support.
The Higdons set up an alternative school which was attended by 66 of their 72 former pupils.
Beginning in a marquee on the village green, the school moved to a local carpenter’s premises and later to a purpose-built school financed by donations from the British labour movement.
The Burston Strike School carried on teaching local children until shortly after Tom’s death in 1939.
The strike is commemorated each year by the British Labour Movement.

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