This guide covers the main records held by the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) relating to the Burston School Strike.
Details of some resources held elsewhere are also listed, including those at the Norfolk Heritage Centre (NHC), Burston Strike School Museum and The National Archives (TNA).
Tom Higdon and his wife Annie were appointed as teachers at the Burston and Shimpling Council School in 1911.
They had previously worked as teachers at Wood Dalling School in Norfolk where, as at Burston, Annie was headmistress.
The Higdons were Christian Socialists and they had objected to poor conditions at Wood Dalling School.
They had also been concerned about the employment of children by local farmers, which interrupted their education.
Many of these farmers were also school managers so the Higdons' activities created social tensions.
Eventually, the Norfolk Education Committee gave the Higdons the option of dismissal or employment at another school.
When the Higdons transferred to Burston they found conditions for many labouring families were similar to those at Wood Dalling.
Tom Higdon gained election to the parish council at Burston in the hope of making improvements, while Annie repeatedly made requests for better conditions at the school.
These activities created tensions with local farmers and the Rev Charles Tucker Eland, the local rector and chairman of the school managers.
Allegations of pupil abuse were made against the Higdons in 1914 and they were subsequently dismissed.
Many children and their parents believed the allegations to be fabricated. On 1 April 1914 Violet Potter led her fellow pupils out on strike to show their support for the Higdons.
A separate Burston Strike School was established for those pupils and parents who refused to send them to the official council school.
It was held outside on the village green at first and then above a carpenter’s shop in Burston.
Many labour organisations supported the Strike School and eventually enough money was raised to build a permanent schoolhouse. It opened in 1917.
The Burston Strike became the longest running strike in history and the school existed until 1939, when Tom Higdon died.
Its building still stands today and now houses the museum which tells the strike’s story.
We hold a variety of documents which provide an insight into the strike and the Higdons’ activities in Norfolk. These include records of the Norfolk Education Committee, the Burston and Shimpling Council School and Burston Parish Council.
Several photographs of the Burston Strike School, including Tom and Annie Higdon, are held at the NHC. Some of these photographs are also available online through the Picture Norfolk archive.
The NHC also holds copies of local newspapers which reported the progress of the Burston Strike, ensuing incidents and events at rallies.
The Burston Strike School Museum is based in the former school building. It is managed by trustees who now run it as a visitor centre.
Records concerning the Burston Strike School, particularly the school file, reference ED 21/12712B, are held by TNA.
See A Morton, Education and the State from 1833 (Kew, 1997) for further details of records held there relating to the Burston Strike.