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What's in a Photo?

On Strike

Philip Yaxley Published: 02 March 2023

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A marching group of striking agricultural and rural workers

Strikes are nothing new. These photos were taken one hundred years ago in the Spring of 1923 when farm workers walked out in protest against wage reductions. With less mechanisation than today and more farming there were many more workers on the land at that time. Then Wymondham was a much smaller town with a population of about 4800 and right in the middle of a rural area.

Farm workers

The strike began on 24 March and vast crowds of strikers attended a meeting at Kimberley Park, where they were addressed by the Earl of Kimberley, Labour’s first peer. Wymondham legend Edwin Gooch, a journalist and sub-editor on the Norwich Mercury, became treasurer of the strikers’ distress fund and was prominent in promoting the farm workers’ cause. In mid-April agreement was reached when the National Union of Agricultural Workers settled for 25 shillings (£1.25) and a fifty hour week. There were no real winners in the dispute, but the strike had strengthened the union, of which Edwin became President from 1928 to 1964, the year he died.

Christmas 1951 card from Ethel and Edwin G. Gooch

Edwin and his first wife Ethel were prominent in the Labour Party with Edwin being a member of Wymondham Parish Council, South Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council, becoming the first Chairman of Wymondham Urban District Council in 1935 when it was elevated to that status. Meanwhile Ethel became Wymondham Council’s first lady member in 1935 and in 1951 its first lady chairman. Although living in Wymondham at Rydal Mount on Norwich Road, just pass Vimy Ridge, Edwin became MP for North Norfolk in 1945 until his death. In the town Edwin and Ethel are commemorated by Edwin Close and Ethel Gooch Road.

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