Rev Clifford and Enid Canning were searching for the perfect place to start a girls’ school. They took a 5 year lease on the magnificent Jacobean Hanford House, near Blandford, and its grounds from Vivian Seymer. It proved to be such an ideal setting they decided to buy property outright. Rev Canning had previously been a housemaster at Marlborough and Headmaster at Canford School but it was Enid’s dream to run a girls’ school. Her vision was that Hanford should be a school that felt like a family home believing happy girls would be successful.
Enid Canning made some progressive decisions all those years ago, decisions that have proven key to Hanford’s enduring success: no uniform, lots of ponies and a comfortable open, relaxed atmosphere where girls could feel free to explore the school and grounds almost as if it was their own home.
The Canning legacy
When girls return to Hanford after years away, they remark (with considerable relief and joy), how little has changed: the curriculum may include ICT as well as Art Appre, the tree may have lost a few branches and there may even be electronic locks on some of the doors, but they are pleased to learn that the girls still love to climb the tree, make dens in Chestnut and jumps in Tumbledown; the Summer Play continues to be performed in the shade of the cedar tree; there are still early morning rides up Hod and Ham; the Nativity still takes place in the hall during Advent; and Mrs C’s Day is still one of the major events of the early Autumn. Above all, they are delighted to see that the girls are happy and enjoy a freedom of mind and spirit which I think is unique to this school.
‘Hold fast that which is good’
At Sarah C’s memorial, The Rev. Andrea Hagenbuch reminded us all of the blessing: ‘Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast that which is good…’
Little has changed at Hanford because it is so good.
Mrs C and ‘Tin Can’
Mrs C and the Reverend Clifford Canning founded Hanford in 1947 in the firm belief that children are best prepared for their adult lives if they are given the freedom to develop in their own time in as diverting and carefree an environment as possible. This is their legacy, an outstanding and enlightened education for girls in which they can enjoy being children while still fulfilling their potential (academic, artistic, sporty, dramatic… whatever), grow in confidence without becoming arrogant, develop their creativity and curiosity, learn to give things a go without a fear of failure and create lifelong friendships which have always been a hallmark of this school. Hanford girls leave without a sense of entitlement – but knowing how lucky they are to have been here.
Sarah C built on her parents’ exceptional legacy. It was her ethos, vision and leadership which enabled generations of Hanford girls to benefit from this truly enlightened education. Furthermore, it was her generosity throughout her lifetime that enabled the school to weather the occasional financial storm. In 2004, in an act of extraordinary generosity, she transferred the school, house and stables to a charitable trust. Following her death, she bequeathed further properties and a substantial sum to the school – enabling us to begin work on protecting the fabric of the school.
How you can help
All those who are fortunate enough to have spent time at Hanford – as girls, as parents, even as staff – will know what an impact it has had on their lives. This is entirely due to the extraordinary academic and financial legacy of the Cannings. With Sarah C gone, it falls upon us to protect and build upon this legacy. We need fundraising support through individual gifts and legacies to complete the work on the house that we all love so much and to develop a bursary fund to support those who would benefit from a Hanford education but cannot afford it.
If you are prepared to consider supporting the school, either through a gift or through your own legacy, then we would like to hear from you. Please call the office on 01258 860219 to discuss how you might be able to help.
With your support, we can achieve anything.