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Coordinates: 50°47′23″N 1°57′14″W / 50.7898°N 1.9538°W / 50.7898; -1.9538

Canford School
Canford School Logo.jpg

, ,
BH21 3AD

TypeIndependent school
MottoLatin: Nisi Dominus Frustra
Unless the Lord in Vain
Department for Education URN113922 Tables
Head MasterBen Vessey
Staffc. 100
Age13 to 18
Colour(s)         Blue & White
PublicationThe Canfordian
The Week
AlumniOld Canfordians

Canford School is a coeducational independent school for day and boarding pupils. Situated in 300 acres of parkland near to the market town of Wimborne Minster in Dorset, south west England, it is one of the largest schools by area.

The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.[1] Called a public school, Canford's fees are more than £11,590 per term.[2] Canford is the 4th most expensive HMC day school[3] and 14th most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK.[4] The school is rated outstanding by Ofsted and is consistently ranked among the best co-educational independent schools nationally. In 2014, and again in 2016, Canford was among four runners-up for "Public School of the Year" in the Tatler School Awards.[5][6]

The school has an enrolment of 630 students aged between 13 and 18 spread across seven boarding and three day houses. Canford School counts among their alumni high-ranking military officers, pioneers in industry, computing, and economics, as well as senior figures in the Arts and Sciences.


Canford School emblem

Canford Manor was particularly associated with John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster - the third of five surviving sons of King Edward III of England. The Duke exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of King Richard II's reign, and the ensuing periods of political strife. Due to some generous land grants, he was one of the richest, and most powerful, men of his era. John of Gaunt's legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, include English kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI.[7]

Because of his rank, John of Gaunt was one of England's principal military commanders in the 1370s and 1380s, though his enterprises were never rewarded with the kind of dazzling success that had made his elder brother Edward the Black Prince such a charismatic war leader. On the resumption of war with France in 1369, John of Gaunt assumed the position of military commander in France. On his return from France in 1374, John took a more decisive and persistent role in the direction of English foreign policy. From then until 1377, he was effectively the head of the English government due to the illness of his father and elder brother, who were unable to exercise authority. His vast estates made him the richest man in England, and his great wealth, ostentatious display of it, autocratic manner and attitudes, enormous London mansion, and association with the failed peace process at Bruges combined to make him the most visible target of social resentments.[8]

Records suggest the Canford Manor was used as a principal residence of John of Gaunt for some time. Of that early period, only the Norman church and 14th century refectory known as John O' Gaunt's Kitchen remains. The main building, constituting the nucleus of the school, was designed by Edward Blore and later by Sir Charles Barry in the early and mid 1800s. The school itself was founded in 1923, having been "provided with a nucleus of boys and staff from a small private school in Weston-super-Mare".[9]

Assyrian friezeEdit

Assyrian relief rediscovered at Canford School.

In 1992, a lost Assyrian stone relief was rediscovered on the wall of "the Grubber".[10] Although it is at first sight rather unlikely that such a valuable item should be found on the wall of a school tuck shop, the history of the school explains how the relief came to be there. It had been brought back from the site of Nimrud in northern Mesopotamia (Iraq) by Sir Austen Henry Layard along with other antiquities which were displayed at Canford before it was a school. Originally Canford had been a private country house (known as Canford Manor), designed by Edward Blore and improved by Sir Charles Barry, and the residence of Layard's cousin and mother-in-law, Lady Charlotte Guest and her husband, Sir John Josiah Guest. At that time, the building now known as the Grubber had been used to display antiquities and was known as "the Nineveh Porch". It was however believed by the school authorities to be a plaster copy of an original which had been lost overboard during river transit and little attention was paid to it after the school was established. A dartboard was even hung in the Grubber close to where the frieze was displayed. It was John Russell of Columbia University who identified the frieze as an original, one of a set of three relief slabs taken from the throne room of Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II (883–859 BC). A new plaster copy now stands in the foyer of the Layard Theatre at Canford and a number of "Assyrian Scholarships" are available, funded from the sale proceeds which also helped pay for the construction of a new sports facility.[11]

The original relief is now part of the collection of the Miho Museum in Japan.[12][13]

School fees cartel (2005)Edit

Canford Landscape

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[14] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[15] However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[16]


In March 2006, the school suffered an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease though only two students were affected.[17]

The Layard TheatreEdit

The Layard Theatre is situated inside Canford School and is open to the public.[18]

Old CanfordiansEdit

Former pupils of Canford School are known as Old Canfordians. Notable alumni include:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "HMC Schools Directory". HMC. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Fees". Canford School. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Fees | Canford School". 2 September 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  4. ^ "About us". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Tatler Schools Awards 2014 – the winners". Tatler. 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ "Tatler School Awards 2016 – The Winners!". Tatler. 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "Henry IV". English Monarchs. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  8. ^ Sumption (2009), pp. 325–327
  9. ^ "Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, Volumes 94-99, 1973, Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, Archaeology". p. 153. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  10. ^ Russell, John Malcolm, ed. (1997). From Nineveh to New York: The strange story of the Assyrian reliefs in the Metropolitan Museum and the hidden masterpiece at Canford School. New Haven/London: Yale University Press; New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  11. ^ "Assyrian Frieze | Canford School". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  12. ^ McKenzie, Judith (1997). "10". Canford School. Russell. pp. 173–189.
  13. ^ Paley, Samuel M. (1999). "A winged genius and royal attendant from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud". Bulletin of the Miho Museum. 2: 17–29, Plate 1.
  14. ^ "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times. UK. 2005.
  15. ^ "The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". UK: Office of Fair Trading. 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008.
  16. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 January 2004. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Legionnaires' hits public school". BBC News. UK: BBC. 9 March 2006.
  18. ^ "Layard Theatre". Ticket Source. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg "Notable O.C.'s" The Old Canfordian Magazine. The Old Canfordian Society, Dorset. 2018.
  20. ^ "Obituaries: Ted Cooke-Yarborough". The Daily Telegraph. London. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  21. ^ Barber, Marilyn (13 December 2016). "Strictly finalist Ore Oduba is a former pupil of Dumpton and Canford schools in Wimborne". Blackmore Vale. Retrieved 19 December 2016.[permanent dead link]


  • Sumption, Jonathan (2009). The Hundred Years War: Divided houses. Volume III. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571138975.

External linksEdit