Canford Magna

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Postcode for SatNavBH21 3AF
O.S. Landranger Map reference195-032988

Canford Magna

No known dedication

In the past, there have been some who have suggested that this church is not very beautiful, but 'beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder' and this commentator finds much of it most attractive. More importantly, it is hugely interesting, steeped in history and obviously very much loved by its congregation. The setting, despite its proximity to the famous school of the same name, is both peaceful and charming. 

This is the oldest building in the Borough of Poole, with a foundation reaching back to the late Saxon period, probably around 1050. That structure now forms the chancel. A nave was grafted on to it by the Normans, who also added the slightly oddly placed northern tower of 1180. It may have been erected to buttress the church from falling down. There are still some little Norman windows, although the lighting must have been considerably improved in C14 by the addition of further windows. The chancel arch, south chapel and aisle are also Norman. High in the north wall of the south aisle there are the remains of an excellent example of a Rood loft access stairway. 


In 1829 the nave was extended westward and it was into this extension that a gallery to carry a magnificent organ was installed in 1976. In 1846, Canford Manor was bought by Sir John Guest of Guest Keen and Nettlefold (G.K.N.), who during a period of frantic railway building, had made a fortune from creating most of the world's railway lines. In 1876 his son ,Ivor, retained the architect, David Brandon, to restore the church. He furnished the chancel with individually sized stalls for the benefit of the various members of his family. The chancel's east window depicts the four gospel evangelists and was erected in memory of Sir John Guest. On either side there is an exquisite, if somewhat glum, mosaic angel by Salviati, which were probably installed during the 1876-8 restoration.

There are some very good monuments to the Guest and Willett families, mainly C19 and 20. Of particular interest is the one that records the unfortunate and apparently untimely death of Montague (Monty) Guest at Sandringham, while he was attending the King's birthday party. The octagonal Purbeck marble font is Early English C13. 

The lack of a known dedication is worthy of comment in that it may actually have been St. Augustine because the 'east' end is not orientated directly to the east, but in the direction of the sun rising on St. Augustine's day.

Outside, near the south porch is a Scottish granite tomb dedicated to Sir Henry Austen Layard, who brought a frieze from Nineveh to Canford during C19. This frieze was subsequently sold by the school for £7.7 million.

This is an exceptional church, which is a real delight to visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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