Walter Canner was born in Lincoln in 1880, trained as a missionary at St Paul’s College in Burgh le Marsh (near Skegness) in 1902 and travelled to China to become the Superintendent of the Murray Hill Institute for Blind Children in Beijing from 1921-1938.
Walter’s aim was to teach the children a trade, so that they could become self-sufficient, learning skills such as weaving, printing, basket weaving and shoe making.
When he returned to Lincoln, he brought with him a treasure trove of artefacts which have since been passed down through his family, some of whom are still living in Lincolnshire.
In 2017 Walter’s grandchildren collaborated with the Special Collections Librarian to produce a display of their heirlooms to celebrate the charitable work of their grandfather and the impact he made whilst in China, which were on display from July to mid-October. At the time the School of History and Heritage was running a module entitled ‘China and the West’.
Image: Walter Canner (Ref: WALTER CANNER/1/1/2)
The family’s collection of items made by the children was brought together for the display, including handmade silk shoes, embroideries, a model Chinese house, writing implements, abacus and books plus Walter’s photographs of the children at work and play.
Rosemary Saunders kindly gave permission for the photographs to be digitised after the display ended, some of which have been added to the catalogue plus printouts, which can be viewed in the Zibby Garnett Library. She also supplied a copy of Walter’s History of the Hill Murray Institute for the Blind, Pa-Li-Chuang, Peking (Ref: WALTER CANNER/2/1) and other notes on the history of the institute compiled by Rosemary.
Image: Walter Canner's collection of Chinese dolls, shoes, embroidery and a comb from the Library display in 2017
Image: A plan of the compound 1923 (Ref: WALTER CANNER/2/3)