The Burston Rebellion


Read by Steve C

The early 20th century in Great Britain saw a seismic shift in political awareness especially amongst the working classes. This led to a significant increase in trade union membership and growing support for the recently formed Labour Party that had its roots based in the trade union movement and various socialist parties that had evolved in the latter part of the previous century.

And so it was that in 1911 two teachers, headmistress Annie (Kitty) Higdon and her husband Tom as assistant teacher (both Christian Socialists), joined the community of the small village of Burston, situated just north of the market town on Diss on the Norfolk / Suffolk border. It wasn’t too long before the Higdons, whilst trying their hardest to improve the conditions both of the pupils of their school and the children’s parents (who were mostly agricultural labourers), came into serious conflict with the long-established hegemony of the land-owning and ecclesiastic classes of the district that formed the board of school managers. The Higdons were dismissed from their posts on 1 April 1914, but this injustice so enraged virtually all of the pupils at the school that they immediately went on strike in support of their much loved and respected teachers, led by 13-year-old Violet Potter.

Thus began the longest running strike in British history which was destined to last for over 25 years. News of the strike spread rapidly, and the cause was taken up throughout the country by trade unionists and school reformers. The Higdons continued to teach the Burston children, first in the open air on the village green, then in the village carpenter’s shop, before moving in 1917 to the newly built Burston Strike School.

This book records Tom and Annie Higdon’s experiences in the village, their battles with the local education authority and the first few years of the strike. - Summary by Steve C (3 hr 45 min)