Shepshed The Miss Cooke's at Hallcroft School
My wife and I live in the property in Sullington Road which was once the residence of the infamous Shepshed sisters Miss Jessica and Miss Lucy Cooke, both of whom taught at the (now demolished) school in Hall Croft. Miss Jessica was the Senior Mistress and Deputy Head and Miss Lucy was the Head of the Infants Department.
I am indebted to a good friend for lending me a pamphlet : "The founding of the old Sheepshed British School and its subsequent History. 1875-1975" by G.H.Mallory. I reproduce below some fascinating insights into the contribution the two sister made to many of Shepshed's children from the 1920s to the 1940s:-
1924 - 1930
If Mr Baker’s era had been characterised by its stability and continuity the next ten years was a period of rapid change at the top. A Mr. F. Cowley came as temporary head for six months, followed by Mr. William J. A. Perry who stayed for only two years. Of the Assistant Teachers, there remained the faithful Miss J. Cooke who with her sister Lucy, in charge of the Infants’ Department made such an enormous contribution over the years.
In 1925 to crown everything, a trip to Wembley for 37 girls and 24 boys accompanied by six staff to see the Great Exhibition. What an adventure this was! Buses to Loughborough at 6.45 . . a trip round London in a bus seeing the sights, and then to the Exhibition itself with its fantastic Pavilions from the Commonwealth. It was after twelve when they got back. What masochists teachers are!
The ablest children went to Loughborough at the age of eleven
Mr Perry was an indefatigable innovator . He exploded in Shepshed like a bomb. School for him was a happy place . . . he organised trips to the seaside including a gigantic affair to Skegness when 290 children and 195 parents went off in a special train chartered for the occasion. During his brief reign the first Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was produced and the proceeds, £22, “blued” on that glorious trip to “Skeggy” (no doubt Miss Jessie Cooke was involved in this)
Many of the things which were started in Mr. Perry’s day were continued when Mr. Kind was Headmaster. “The Tempest” and “The taming of the Shrew” were produced, apparently with great success, by Miss J. Cooke, whose own love of the Bard of Avon she successfully communicated to her pupils. Miss J. Cooke taught literature in the Night School and in June 1930 successfully joined together her evening class and the senior girls for a “Shakespeare performance”. Surely a “first” in the integration of voluntary and statutory education.
Paying tribute to his staff in his final entry in his log book Robert Kind wrote “They have been energetic and willing helpers and in a personal sense I shall miss their co-operation very much”. He mentions by name Mr. F. A. Smith, Mr S. E. Grayston, Miss Cooke, Miss Unwin, and Miss Barrett.
1930 - 1940
In 1931 there were 234 on roll, in 1933 it was 289. The classes in 1933, including the Headmaster’s, averaged over 40, with Miss J. Cooke’s Senior Girls 49. There were seven teachers including the Head. Three of the classes were designated as Senior Classes
The Report of 1933 refers to the hard working, loyal, and united staff. Their names will be familiar to many. There was Miss J. Cooke who retired in 1950 after 30 years of service. Miss Lucy Cooke her sister was Head of the Infants’ Department for 22 years. Miss Jessie died in 1957 and Miss Lucy in 1974. Both retained their interest in the school during retirement, and I will remember in March 1957, only about a month before Miss Jessie died, inviting them jointly to open the Evening School Exhibition held in Garendon Road Centre. This they were proud to do using as their rostrum a set of steps which they had made in the Woodwork Evening Class. Miss Lucy continued to do her woodwork until the year before she died. They lie together now in a corner of Bethesda Chapel Graveyard close to the Ingles footpath where they hear the children pass on their way to and from school.
1939 - The war, 37 extra children and 4 teachers were evacuated into the school from Sheffield
The following winter was grim. In January the coke ran out. There were heavy falls of snow. Attendance dwindled to less than 50%. Teachers and children found it impossible to get to school. . teachers left to join the forces.
1940 - 1950
1947 – The Hall Croft Juniors after a “smashing tea” and a jolly goodbye singsong on July 29th took their dual locker desks and books up to St. Botolph’s, and St. Botolph’s seniors transported their tables and chairs to Hall Croft. On September 10th 1947 eighty six children went to the C.E.School and eighty six seniors came to Hall Croft from St. Botolph’s and Belton. The Shepshed Secondary Modern School was born. (The Miss Cooke’s apparantly stayed at Hall Croft)
In 1949 Mr. Enoch Smith and “the Miss. Cookes” retired. Miss Jessie must have felt that the visit with 88 “scholars and staff” to see “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at Stratford-on-Avon on June 29th 1949 was the culmination of her career. She, and her sister in the Infants, had given everything to the school.
Enoch’s last entry in the log book records “the willing co-operation before and since reorganisation particularly the splendid work of Miss J. A. Cooke – Senior Mistress; and Deputy Head for the last two years”. Miss Jessie Anne Cooke joined the staff from Church Gate School in Loughborough on March 1st 1920. For twenty nine years she had influenced Shepshed’s children by her devotion to the Arts and her love of Shakespeare, now alas all too often considered too hard and boring for children of today.
If you have any memories or further information about the Miss Cooke's, or our/their home please doemail, and we will add it to this page
Headmasters of the Shepshed British School and its descendants
1888 – 1924 W. Baker
1924 – 1925 F. Cowlings (temp)
1925 – 1927 Wm. J. H. Perry
1927 Sep –Nov W. C. Brittain (temp)
1927 Dec L. E. Smith (temp)
1928 – 1930 Robert Kind
1930 Jun-Oct F. Arnold Smith (temp)
1930 – 1935 Emlyn Howell
1935 - 1949 Enoch Smith (also head prior to 1927)
1927-1949 Miss L. L. F. Cooke