The Arcott School, 1936-1974

The Arcott School

The Arcott School

Miss Phyllis Maud Cole, Headmistress, lived originally in East Leake with relatives. Her father worked for the Railways at Didcot. When her grandfather left her some money, Miss Cole purchased a building in Long Whatton, which used to be a Stocking Factory, behind The Falcon. She opened a small school, named Arcott School, with two pupils in 1936. It soon expanded as more children attended. At about the same time a small private school existed in Loughborough called Totland'. When Totland closed Miss Cole purchased all the furniture, desks and chairs. She also took on Mrs. Wyles, who taught at Totland, together with a number of their pupils,which increased the school role to around forty. A Wheildon's bus picked up Mrs Wyles and the Loughborough contingent and brought them to Long Whatton.The children stood 'crocodile' fashion in pairs, holding hands waiting patiently for the sign to alight the bus. 'Pushing' was a serious crime, and the bus driver was encouraged to report any who did not behave. Once all the pupils had arrived at Arcott at 9.30am, an Assembly took place, always of a religious nature, with Miss Cole at the piano. This was followed by a blackboard type lesson on the alphabet, in which the whole school took part, regardless of age. By 1950, the school was extended to include two classrooms, and a Long Whatton resident, Mrs Gee provided cooked lunches for the pupils and staff, all prepared on the premises from the range in Miss Cole's house. The food was very local. Meat came from Mr. Shepherd, the Kegworth butcher, and the vegetables were grown in the school garden, which included an orchard. Mr Jack Barnett tended the gardens and produced the crops and Mrs Barnett was the housekeeper and cleaner. Pupils came not only from Long Whatton, but further afield as many professional people chose Arcott School for their children's education. It became known that Miss Cole, who taught the senior class, aimed her pupils for Independent and Public schooling after their primary years with her. For those young people who travelled a distance, Miss Cole provided a few boarding places in her own house, which was attached to the school. In 1958, a demand for nursery age children was made, and Miss Pat Harlow was employed to start an underage class of children of three and half to four years old. This quickly grew to twenty pupils. They joined the others for lunch and stayed all day. When Miss Harlow left to get married in 1958, Miss Charmaine Parsons took over the nursery children and stayed until Miss Cole retired in 1974. It was in 1974 when the school closed, and a grand Retirement Event was planned for Miss Cole. She was much respected in Long Whatton, and will be remembered by very many of her pupils as firm but fair and very caring of her charges. Miss Cole died in 1997.


ARCOTT SCHOOL is a small Kindergarten and Preparatory School, situated in a very healthy country district. Children from 4 to 8 years of age are received as day pupils. The school stands in its own grounds, away the main road. The rooms are light and airy,an -up-to-date manner.
Individual attention, and a thorough grounding in all subjects is given,
Arcott is essentially a Home School, and every consideration is given, concerning the comfort and well-being of the children.
The Principal thoroughly understands the care of the health, and happiness of the children, as well as realising the individuality of each.
The food is always of good quality, while intentionally simple, is varied, and well cooked; with fruit and vegetables.
There is a convenient bus service from surrounding districts during school hours.
A page from the Arcott School brochure.

Miss Cole Retires

If you have memories of the School, either as a pupil or in some other capacity and would like to share them, please email us at:-

Memories of Arcott School, Long Whatton

I went to Arcott School in September 1941 at the age of three and a half. The school was owned and run by Miss Phillis M Cole who did all the teaching. She was an elegant woman who kept her hair in a bun at the nape of her neck. My father, James Hawley, had set up a law practise in Loughborough some years before the war, with John Rodgers. My father, born in 1898, having served and been injured in the First World War, was too old for WW2, but his partner joined the RAF. During the war my mother went to work with my father on a full time basis, as his cashier and office manager, not retiring from the firm until the mid sixties. I was an only child and my parents decided it would be better for me to board at school during the week, and so I caught a bus from Loughborough bus station every Monday morning, returning on Friday afternoon. All I remember of the bus ride was that a number of us sat on the back seat, and waited for the humped back bridge where we bounced up and down on the hard springs of the bus. I have my first school report, all written by Miss Cole, which shows I was in the kindergarten group, listened attentively at Scripture, sung lustily at Music and was very good indeed at General Knowledge. The General Remarks column at the end of the report concluded that ‘ Tony has taken his place with his fellow pupils like a little man. He regards his work seriously and has already made some progress’. I think this comment held true throughout my education. All I remember of the physical layout of the school was a long drive leading up to large doors, with the school on the right- hand side of a courtyard where we played, and a small copse on the far side where Miss Cole kept geese. She told me she had named one of the geese ‘Tony’ after me, because it was noisy and naughty. Still true !
I have no memory of the lessons, apart from borrowing a rubber from the boy behind me, and then trying to steal it by putting it inside my toy motorcar –one of those cars which had a fifth wheel on a spring under the body of the car and you could wind it up by pressing it into the carpet and pushing it backwards and then letting go. Miss Cole soon found it and took me into the dining room where she took down my short trousers, put me over her knee and spanked me with a ruler. No, this did not scar me for life.
I think there were only a few boarders, and we all slept in one dormitory, again looked after by Miss Cole. She had help with the food but did everything else herself.
Contracting hay fever at about this time, I was kept inside during the season when there was a lot of pollen around, and spent my time drawing rings around old pennies and colouring them in, and threading coloured wooden beads on to a shoestring with a knot at the end.
One local girl, named Delia, used to come into the classroom to see me when I was confined there. She had glorious red hair
I must have remained at Arcott School until the end of the war, as I have a clear memory of Miss Cole running down the path outside the windows of the classroom, waving a large Union Jack flag. This must have been VJ or, more likely, VE day. After this I went to Repton preparatory school in Derbyshire, then to Rossall School in Lancashire, finishing my education at Cambridge University.
I understand that the school closed in the 1970’s and is now part of Falcon Inn. I have fond memories of it and Miss Cole, being my first time spent away from home. Sadly I never went back to visit. My children found my boarding experience at such a young age very strange, but in wartime, needs must.

Tony Hawley


It was decided by my parents I should attend Arcott School as I so heartily protested against playschool, crying I wanted to learn to read and write. I recall making a visit to the school to see if I liked it well enough to be admitted as a pupil. I remember being very envious of everyone’s knowledge and I simply could not wait to become a part of it. It was 1971 and I was just four years old.
Tradition and routine were part of Arcott’s identity and seemingly nothing changed much over the years, not even Miss Cole’s hair do!
Every morning the partition between two classrooms would be opened and assembly would take place, followed by the daily singing of the alphabet and chanting of our sounds. T H says th, C H says ch, S H says sh and so on. My wish to be able to read and write was rapidly granted.
Miss Cole accompanied us on piano enthusiastically,so much so her cheeks would quiver, which filled us with childish delight. Any physical exertion would affect a quiver but none more so than when she administered the ruler! One boy quite unwittingly laughed out loud on such an occasion. Of course we knew the real reason for his unchecked mirth but Miss Cole thought he was taking pleasure in the misfortune of another and he was punished accordingly, with the ruler to the back of the legs. Her morals were unquestionable!
The ruler of course was the ultimate punishment and a rare event. Less serious offences only incurred minor penalties such as standing on the form, standing in the corner or corridor and receipt of stripes (black marks) for shoddy or incomplete work. The latter would appear on our end of term report so to be avoided at all costs. We would be left unsupervised and trusted to continue our work from time to time, whilst Miss Cole went away into the house. One such time I received help with my arithmetic from a neighbour. When Miss Cole marked my work in front of the entire class, every one of my sums was wrong and I was given a stripe for each one, ten stripes in all. My neighbour’s answers were all correct and I was aghast!
Punishments aside, we were encouraged to participate on every level irrespective of our abilities or age. I recall with great enjoyment a game whereby Miss Cole would write a seemingly unpronounceable word on the board, ask if we knew it, then define it, and then we would take turns to make smaller words out of the letters in the big word. Any word of three letters or more was acceptable but of course more kudos was earned for those longer words. My vocabulary was being widened all the time without me realising.
Miss Cole viewed play times as important as lessons. Come rain or shine, we would file out to the courtyard behind the classrooms where we learnt to play “The Farmer’s in the Den” and “What Time is it, Mr Wolf?” amongst others. I recall being so engrossed in play with a friend one time, we missed the ringing of the school bell. Miss Parsons and our fellow class mates were knocking on the windows to alert us but we noticed only too late. Miss Cole was disbelieving of our excuses albeit the truth; one simply would not have ignored the bell for fear of the reprisals! We were kept in the following play time to make up for our extra play but we were allowed to thread wooden beads onto string. Perhaps the very same beads Mr Hawley threaded!
At lunch time we would all file into the dining room, a room in the main body of the house. There were three tables with forms down either side and Miss Parsons supervised the whole school from her place at the head of the middle table with the kindergarten. Miss Cole and Mrs Gee would then serve the lunches. It was expected we eat all food on our plates irrespective of personal likes and dislikes and there were any number of reasons why we should. Many people had been involved in the growing and preparing of the food therefore it was only fair we should do our bit in consuming it and there were children starving in Africa who would be grateful for it. Also our brains needed the food in order to work properly. Anyone who did not produce a clean plate did not have any pudding and for the serial offender, they would remain in the dining room until their plate was clean. Paddy (Miss Cole’s dog) soon wised up to the fact there may be a few scraps going begging and was no stranger to the dining room if he could manage. Of course, Miss Cole soon wised up to Paddy’s tricks too! Even her beloved dog had to abide by the rules!
Miss Cole was also a stickler for good grammar, neat writing and good spelling. Words such as “get” or “that” were deemed unnecessary and sentences never started with But, And or Then. I escaped notice here but for those to whom English did not come so easily it was a different story. They suffered the indignity of having to write on loose paper rather than a book and were likely to have their work read out in class for all the wrong reasons. We would all laugh at some of the errors initially, only to find the ones who laughed the loudest were next in line with an even worse error. I recall an occasion and a lesson learnt when Miss Cole’s two sisters came to stay and helped in the school room. We were taught how to greet them correctly by saying “Good Morning, Misses Cole”, instead of our usual “Good Morning, Miss Cole” and being terribly amused at Misses sounding like Missus and the idea of Miss Cole being married!
Deportment was another area in which Miss Cole was particular. If we did not sit upright with our shoulders back and our chest out then we were likely to receive a prodding in between the shoulder blades! All slouches were informed they would set like it (the same went for pulling faces) and we were given examples of real people Miss Cole herself had known who were round shouldered as a result of poor posture, one of whom was a former pupil. I have maintained excellent posture throughout my life!
Early afternoon was reading time and here my passion for books began. Enid Blyton was a favourite author, in particular “The Children of Cherry Tree Farm” and “The Magic Faraway Tree”. I recall Miss Cole telling us some of Enid Blyton’s work had been criticised for being offensive to minority groups and certain works had been banned from print (this was the beginnings of political correctness) but in her opinion Enid Blyton was an excellent writer. This of course made her books more exciting to us even if political correctness was not a clear concept in the early seventies.
I really only have vague recollection of Miss Cole’s announcement she planned to retire. I recall being taken into her garden at the back of the house, previously out of bounds to all but a few, for a final picnic and photographs for the album. My future schooling was secured at Fairfield Preparatory School a year earlier than previously planned.
Reading back through my account, it sounds rather draconian, however we knew the consequences should the rules be broken. Explanations were always tendered as to why we were being punished and good behaviour was lauded in equally high measures. Sadly this kind of schooling doesn’t have a place in current society as political awareness has grown but Miss Cole’s little school was a marvellous institution in its day and the teachings she offered were really second to none. It belonged in an era where summers lasted for ever and corporal punishment was de rigueur. Ironically children still starve in Africa regardless of all the vegetables we ate!
I remember my time at the school and Miss Cole with great fondness. I visited frequently post 1974, both with my parents and then as an adult in my own right, when we would discuss how the world was changing so rapidly and how it unsettled her. Sadly it affected her more deeply than I realised at the time. Often in my thoughts and ever present in my actions and words, Miss Cole, you were a tremendous lady.

Amanda Halliday (nee Hull)


Hazel Orme (Mrs), nee Morris
I was at Arcott School between 1958 and 1962. Please may I correct what seems to be an error in your narrative about the school? When I started (in 1958), Miss Harlow was teaching the little ones -- and remained at least until I left. She was related to the Harlows of wood fame in Long Whatton. It's going back a bit now, but I remember my time at the school with affection and often wonder what happened to my classmates. I went on to a girls' public boarding school, then university, and lost touch with everyone shortly thereafter.
Totland School was run by a Mrs Ryland; it closed around 1955 -- I spent a term there when I was about three (and hated it! I couldn't keep up when we had to play trains!). I hope that fits in with what you say about Miss Cole having bought the desks, etc.
What happened to Mrs Wyles? ( If anyone has any information, then please let us know at LWHS)
My brother was also at Arcott -- he must have started there in 1959, left when I did in '62 -- and was much entertained by the website. Neither of us recognised the view of the house at first, but eventually all became clear.
I was terrified of Miss Cole from the moment I arrived until the moment I left: I never suffered the ruler but many others did -- to me, it was an all too potent threat!


Nikki (Nicola) Jenkins, (nee Ridley-Thompson) Gosh ... what a surprise to read about my old "dame" school in Long Whatton, where I attended in 1958 at the age of 4 or 5.What can I say about Miss Cole? She was absolutely terrifying ... she had a large wart on her face, with her hair scraped severely back into a bun and she was a brilliant teacher. We used to write on little slates with chalks I remember, and we had these brilliant little exercise books which were a slate blue/grey in colour, about the size of A5, maybe smaller, and they had childish pictures on them of birds ... chickens I think they were ... and animals with ruled lines spaced very well apart. We learned to count by counting "footballs" ... lines of little coloured footballs drawn on the ruled feint lines with the number in large numerals underneath the footballs. We learned the alphabet phonetically ... every morning after assembly we would sing the alphabet:
"A says "a" and B says "b".C says "c" and D says "d".
and so on until the end of the alphabet. We would then recite our times tables and Miss Trunchbull ... sorry, Miss Cole ... would walk round the rows of children with a cane, and if anyone made a mistake she would slash the back of that poor unfortunte child's legs with her cane. I remember one poor unfortunate boy, who had a bit of a lisp, and he would literally wet himself out of fear ... this was the nasty side of Miss Cole !! She ruled the roost with a rod of iron ... or rather a cane of swishy wood and a hard wooden ruler, which she would bring down over your knuckles hard if you made a mistake when you were reading out to her in the individual sessions. I have to admit that she taught me to appreciate literature ... something else I had forgotten is that we were taught French. The text she used was a hard-backed orange book about a mouse called Madame Souris. The opening immortal lines went ...
"Madame Souris a une maison.La Maison du Madame Souris etait tres jolie"
translated into:Mrs Mouse had a house.The house of Mrs Mouse was very pretty.I remember the text was one the left hand side of the book, and there were some lovely pen and ink drawings of the mouse on the right.I am sure there are other memories buried deep in the detritus of my mind!!
. She took an instant dislike to my older brother, Tim, and to my mother, whom she considered a flibbertygibbit, a bit of a socialite because she and my father regularly entertained and had large house parties every weekend, and went off to glamorous hunt balls, army do's, Ascot, the Derby etc. She considered that mothers should devote themselves to their children and not indulge in such pursuits!! Mrs Wyles was just the opposite ... she adored my brother, and could see the potential in him and advised my mother in confidence to send him to the P.N.E.U. in East Leake, which she did, and where he flourished. To give Miss Cole her due, she did not take out her dislike of my brother and my mother on me.
I adored Mrs Wyles, she was lovely, although I remember getting into terrible hot water with her because I looked up her skirt and giggled at her bloomers when she climbed on the desk to change a light bulb!! She was an excellent teacher too. Miss Harlow was a darling lady, I think I started in her class although I can't actually remember for sure.I remember Mrs Gee, she was lovely too, and I remember playing The Good Ship sails on the Ally Ally O in the playground, and the Farmer in the Den, tig and other games. I don't remember the geese, but I remember being freezing cold in the winter. The building was a sort of portakabin/nissen hut type affair - I don't recognise the photograph on the website, and I don't remember the school being called Arcott - I only remember my mother referring to it as Long Whatton dame school.
I remember the food as being very good. I went on from Long Whatton to Ockbrook School at the age of 7, and they were very impressed with my standard of education and put me up a class, although like most children I fell down to the lowest common denominator! I then went from there at the age of 11 to East Haddon Hall boarding school in Northamptonshire, in 1965, where I stayed until 1970. The school moved from East Haddon to Ladbroke in Warwickshire in 1968 and then I understand it closed in about 1975-ish altogether.
My maiden name is Ridley-Thompson - Nicola (Nikki) Ridley-Thompson, and my brother is Tim Ridley-Thompson. I was born in January 1954 and my brother in May 1950. Tim went from the PNEU to Foremark Hall, and from their to Rugby.Please do pass on my email to anyone whom you think appropriate, and I am more than happy for you to publish it on your website.

Best wishes, Nikki Jenkins


I have just been back to your page on Arcott School and if possible would like to add my few thoughts. I would have started there in 1950 as my youngest brother was born that year in Belton. I was certainly there in 1952 as I remember sitting at a long table at lunch time listening to the radio broadcast about the death of King George VI. I also have a dictionary with an inscription on the fly leaf. - awarded to Catherine Beardsley - Star prize for Good Work. Sadly other schools I went to have disappeared totally - massive buildings demolished and only a trickle of information from the thousands of pupils that must have gone through them.



I attended Arcott from 1962 to 1966 and have very fond memories of those times. I remember my first day when Pat Harlow (now Shaw) was very kind to me when my mother left me in tears with the tears being soon forgotten because of her kindness. Pat was definitely still there in 1962 but I have a feeling she left soon afterwards as I also remember Miss Parsons arriving at the school, soon after I had.
I also recall morning assembly and the reciting of the alphabet both forward and backwards each morning together with our times tables from 2 through to 12.
The last I heard of Mrs Wyles was that she was in a nursing home in Loughborough but that was probably back in 2001. I am pretty sure she has since passed away.
Contrary to some of the other contributors, I remember being in fear of Mrs Wyles especially after she smacked me on my knuckles with a wooden ruler for getting my long division using pounds, shillings and pence wrong at the age of 6!
I also remember being lined up in crocodile fashion at the end of the school day before being allowed to go at the sound of the bell. I also recall Miss Coles' geese that she kept in her garden and they used to hiss at us if we got to close to the fence that separated them from the playground. I also remember Paddy, Miss Coles black mongrel dog, whom she had great affection for.
I made several friends at the school but my closest friend was Robert Harlow (of the Harlow Bros family) and we remain friends to this day with Robert being godfather to our eldest child, Alice. Robert and I left Arcott in 1966 when we both went to the Lower School of Loughborough Grammar School, which was the boys equivalent of the then girls only Fairfield. (The Lower School and Fairfield eventually merged in 1969, I think).
I feel very privileged to have attended Arcott and it gave me a fantastic start to life and I still occasionally see Pat Shaw in the village and we always have a little chat about those mainly happy times we both had at Arcott.

David Barnett


I began there in Autumn 1954. I remember Miss Cole and Mrs Wyles. Mrs Wyles travelled on the bus from Loughborough. The bus, I think we called "Puffing Billy", maybe. I laughed out loud upon seeing on the web page — Miss Cole's name following an aside to "Miss Trunchbull". Fortunately I had seen the musical "Matilda" and I understood the reference. Yep. Somewhat appropriate. Fortunately Mrs Wyles was definitely not formidable. I also remember learning French, definitely with "Madame Souris a une maison." Yes, from a hardback book with an orange cover. I also remember the line "Madame Souris a une queue". Here is a link to see the opening page. I hope Nikki Jenkins will come back to this web page and find it. — and click right arrow for 2 more pages.

Madame Souris a une maison.
La maison de Madame Souris est très jolie.
Madame Souris a une maison.
Madame Souris a une maison.
Madame Souris a une maison.
Madame Souris a une maison.
Madame Souris aime sa petite maison.
Sa maison est très petite.
Elle a une porte.
Elle a quatre fenêtres.
Une, deux, trois, quatre.
Madame Souris a un jardin.
Le jardin de Madame Souris est très joli.
II y a un arbre dans le jardin.
II y a des fleurs dans le jardin.
Une, deux, trois, quatre.
Madame Souris aime son petit jardin.

I note the recollections of most others on the web page make clear that Miss Cole was definitely a disciplinarian (whose style probably would not be acceptable in current times). My dad saved all my school reports until I went off to university, when he gave them to me in a big envelope, and I still have them. The Arcott School reports are embellished with stick-on stars of various colours. I remember the back yard had a garden with a path straight down the middle, with a pump partway along it, and a bowl under the spout. I don't have any memory of the classrooms. I don't know how my parents came up with the idea of sending me at Arcott School. Reflecting on conventional wisdom, I expect the experience gave me a head start to benefit from the next four years at primary school. So I should be grateful to my parents for their choice.

Please note the author wishes to remain anonymous.