The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Dorset — a bird’s eye view — Canford School from the south

Photography by Graham Austin of Kitchenham Photography; text by John Newth


The main, central part of the buildings, with the tower and the windows looking out over the grounds, is the work of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament. In 1846 the manor house at Canford, which had been re-built for Lord de Mauley by Edward Blore only ten years before, was bought by Sir John Guest. An ironmaster from Merthyr Tydfil, whose name lives on in the company Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds (GKN), Sir John commissioned Barry to build him a Victorian mansion. The architect incorporated some of Blore’s work and also John of Gaunt’s Kitchen, on the right of the main block, which may date to the 14th century.

Sir John’s son became the first Lord Wimborne and a substantial landowner throughout East Dorset; it was said that the family could drive from Canford to their summer house at Boscombe (now Wentworth College) without leaving their land. The trees in the centre of the photograph clearly formed an avenue leading down to what is now Magna Road and on to Poole and Bournemouth.

In 1923 the estate was taken over by Canford School, who built the boarding-houses standing to the right of the main block and the art school, classrooms and other additions on the left of the photograph. The grounds were given over to cricket pitches, tennis courts and the all-weather surface that can be seen towards the bottom left of the photograph.

Lord Wimborne supported the archaeological work of Sir Henry Layard, who presented him with three 3000-year-old Assyrian friezes which were displayed at Canford. When the school took over, the originals were sold and plaster casts put in their place – or so it was thought. In 1994 it was discovered that one of the ‘plaster casts’ was in fact the original frieze; it had been hung in the school’s tuck shop next to a dart-board and covered in whitewash. The £7 million which the frieze raised at Christies built the school a new theatre, sports centre and boarding houses and endowed a number of scholarships.

The dark green of the trees, the lack of school activity and the traffic jam on the Wimborne by-pass, which runs across the top of the picture, all suggest that the photograph was taken in August.

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