Hawke's Bay girls' school Woodford House will celebrate its 125th anniversary in February next year.

The boarding and day school, from its idyllic location in the rolling hills of Havelock North, is a special character school, steeped in tradition.

The anniversary events, taking place on the weekend of February 22-24, include a cocktail party, gala lunch, chapel services, tours and an exhibition of archival displays.

The celebrations are open to the public in order to give Old Girls, friends and supporters of the school, and the wider Hawke's Bay community the opportunity to celebrate the respected school's significant milestone.


The boarding-focused, girls' school was established by an unwavering British expat named Annie Mabel Hodge, who was passionately focused on giving "the girls of the Dominion of New Zealand the advantages of the English training, adapted to suit the conditions of this country".

Mabel, as she was known, moved to Hastings from the UK in 1893 with her mother and younger brother.

She took over a small school of 18 pupils in Hastings.

Soon, after learning a large house was for sale, she was able to raise a loan of £500 from the Bank of New South Wales (now known as Westpac Banking Corporation) and put plans in place to open a boarding school.

Hodge named the school Woodford House and it opened in February 1894 with four boarders and 18 day pupils. She and four other teachers taught English, German, French, arithmetic and music.

By 1905 there were 24 boarders and 51 day pupils, and by 1908 a larger space was needed. A company, Woodford House Limited, was formed, and the site at Havelock North selected for the region's new boarding school. The new school opened its doors in February 1911.

These days the school is focused on providing a stimulating, nurturing, creative and intellectual environment which encourages students to achieve personal excellence, and live and lead extraordinary lives.

What has remained throughout the school's 125 years of educating young women is a connection to its heritage and the Hawke's Bay region, and most importantly "keeping the Woodford House Girl at the centre".

Alumni include actress Dame Kate Harcourt; former director of the NZ National Portrait Gallery Avenal McKinnon; barrister and former TV presenter Judith Fyfe; TVNZ director of content Cate Slater and filmmaker Kate Fraser, among others.

■To buy tickets for the 125th Anniversary, visit the website:woodford.school.nz/125years. Some activities, such as the chapel services, are limited in number, so people are encouraged to register early.