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Our History

Canford School 1923

Canford School was founded in 1923, but occupies buildings with a rich history stretching back to before the Norman Conquest. The first written record of Canford Manor is an entry in the Domesday Book in the 1080s.  The only mediaeval part still standing, known as John O'Gaunt's, dates from around 1400 and is now used by the school debating society, as a general meeting room and for formal dinners. 

In 1846, the Canford estate was bought by Sir Josiah John Guest, a wealthy steel works owner, and his wife Lady Charlotte for £354,000, a tidy sum in mid-nineteenth century. The Guests engaged Sir Charles Barry (best known as architect of the Houses of Parliament) to remodel the house. The most obvious additions were the imposing Tower and the Great Hall, now used as the school’s dining hall, which features an elaborately decorated high roof, a huge stone fireplace decorated with the Guest family’s coats of arms, mosaic figures from Canford’s history and stained glass windows.

Barry also designed Nineveh Court, an addition on the eastern side of the main building, built to house the Assyrian treasures which Lady Charlotte Guest's archaeologist cousin, Henry Layard, brought back from the Middle East. Most of the collection was sold by Guest’s grandson, Lord Wimborne, in 1919 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Happily for the school, some smaller items were overlooked, to be rediscovered in the 1950s, when they were sold for £14,000. The one remaining bas-relief, from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, was examined at that time and declared to be a plaster copy. The visit to the school of an American historian, Professor John Malcolm Russell, in 1992 led to the amazing discovery that this bas-relief was genuine and it was sold at Christie’s in 1994 for £7.7 million, a record sum for an item of ancient art. The school has invested this windfall wisely, setting aside a substantial amount for scholarships and bursaries and funds towards the building of a new sports hall, theatre and girls’ boarding house.

“Canford has 100 years of proud tradition and we honour our heritage and all those that have come before.”

Headmaster Ben Vessey

Canford timeline

1923 to 2023 and beyond

Sample Student
  • 1930

Foundation stone laid for Gisborough Hall (Assembly Hall) and Monteacute opened – Canford’s first purpose built boys’ boarding house.

Read More about 1930
Canford Assyrian Frieze
  • 1994

Historic Assyrian Frieze sold for £7m – proceeds used to develop facilities, fund scholarships and bursaries and establish an overseas community partnership programme. 

Read More about 1994


Publication Archive

View digital versions of previous publication editions in our Archive Catalogue. 

Publication Archive


Archive Catalogue

View moments of Canford history in our Archive Catalogue.

Archive Catalogue


The Nineveh Legacy

The  discovery of the Assyrian Frieze and story behind The Nineveh Legacy.

The Assyrian Frieze



Notable OC Alumni

Canford Alumni who have moved on to successful careers in different sectors.

Canford Notable Alumni


“Canford’s current pupils are indeed lucky to be able to enjoy such a rich and varied architectural heritage, and the school’s History Department ensures that they are well-informed about it by including a unit on the History of Canford Manor in the Year 9 scheme of work.”  



School Archivist - Jessica Bichard

The Archivist, Jessica Bichard, is keen to add to the school collection and therefore is always happy to receive Canford memorabilia. Should you have any items relating to your time at the school that you no longer wish to keep, please either send them to Jess at the school or contact her to make arrangements. She would also welcome reminiscences from former staff and pupils about their time at Canford and about any memorable people. If you are sending photographs it would be helpful if names could be attached where possible.

Our Archivist is particularly interested in receiving items listed in the document below. She also has some spare copies of items from the Archives that she is happy for Old Canfordians to have (on a first come, first served basis) Please email Jess.

Enquiries and requests should be directed to:

Jessica Bichard, School Archivist, Canford School, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 3AD

Telephone: 01202 847441

Email JESSICA BICHARD - School Archivist 

Missing Archive items 

 Archive items available for OCs