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Canford School is a full boarding, coeducational, independent private school with a significant minority of day pupils, in the village of Canford Magnamarker, near Wimborne Minstermarker, Dorsetmarker, Englandmarker. The school was founded in 1923. There are approximately 600 pupils at Canford, organised into houses and ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen. John Lever is currently the Headmaster; Richard Knott is currently the Second Master. The school performs well academically and in the last four years has exceeded both the LA and national average for GCSE performance. The Good Schools Guide called the school "Hard to fault, kind, confident, enthusiastic, unpretentious and good all round."

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. 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.

Community Service plays an important role at Canford - every week over 100 6th formers help in local primary schools, special schools, hospitals and hospices, respite care centres and charity shops. Others visit the elderly, produce drama and organise activity projects for less fortunate children in the local area.

The school has achieved high sporting success over the years winning the national Rosslyn Park rugby sevens in 1997 (the team in which Old Canfordians and now rugby professionals Ben Gollings and Nick Makin played) and several national hockey titles. In 2008, four pupils won national honours, representing the England Under 16 Hockey team, England Under 16 Rugby team, England Cricket Elite Player Development and Great Britain rowing. In 2007 the U15 cricket team reached the semi-final of the national Taverners Cup beating the favourites Millfield in the process. Even more recently the U16 hockey team reached the finals of the national indoors and the semi-finals of the nationals.

In Summer 2008 eleven Canford pupils took up places at Oxbridge, making a total of nearly sixty places over the last four years.

Canford School holds two Open Days a year : Saturday 16th May 2009 and Saturday 10th October 2009, 9.30am - 1.00pm.

House system

Canford has seven boarding houses and three day houses. Each house has a married housemaster/mistress, three tutors (one resident in each boarding house) and at least one house matron. House year groups vary between ten and fifteen and each community numbers sixty to sixty-five.

Boys boarding houses:
  • Franklin
  • Monteacute
  • School
  • Court

Girls boarding houses:
  • Beaufort
  • de Lacy
  • Marriotts

Day houses:
  • Lancaster
  • Salisbury
  • Wimborne


The school has its own 9-hole golf course run by Canford Golf Club which is a proprietary club owned by Canford School. The course is set within the school's of mature parkland with many ancient trees and a rippling brook providing the context for some challenging holes of golf. There are tennis courts around the grounds, including during the summer months where one of the two astro-turf pitches is converted into tennis courts.Canford also has one of the few real tennis courts which are left in the United Kingdommarker, part of a complex which includes four squash courts. A large sports complex has recently been built which includes fitness gym, resident physiotherapist, double size sports hall with facilities for basketball, indoor football, netball and trampolining and facilities for the teaching of A-Level Physical Education.

  • School grounds
  • 9-hole golf course
  • Tennis courts
  • A Real Tennis court
  • Swimming pool
  • Sports centre
  • Theatre
  • Boathouse with direct access to river Stour
  • Music Centre
  • Sixth Form Centre
  • Two all weather playing fields
  • Seven Boarding Houses and three day.

The Layard Theatre

The Layard Theatremarker is situated inside Canford School and is open to the public. It seats 299 people and can also cater for people restricted to a wheelchair. It was opened by Sir Richard Eyre in May 1999, having been funded in part from the sale of the Assyrian relief, which had originally been brought to Canford by Sir Austen Henry Layard in the mid-nineteenth century.

Since opening, the theatre have aimed to provide a programme which would attract, entertain, inform and inspire both the school and the community. Featuring classical and modern drama (Actors of Dionysus, Compass Theatre, English Shakespeare Company, KAOS, Kneehigh, Red Shift, the Royal National Theatre and Not the National Theatre); children's theatre (Nuffield Theatre, Roundabout); music (classical, jazz, blues, folk, rock and eve Taiko drummers); comedy (Infinite Number of Monkeys, Chris Addison and Dan Antopolski); classical ballet (Swansea's Ballet Russe) and modern dance, opera and many well-known speakers.

In addition to housing Canford's drama department and student productions, this fully-equipped, modern theatre provides a venue for a wide range of professional entertainment, including top quality theatre and music. These productions are open to the public and are publicised in the theatre's seasonal programme. Parking for the theatre is free.

The Canford-Miho Assyrian relief

In 1992 a lost Assyrian relief was rediscovered on the wall of "the Grubber" (the school tuck shop). The relief was sold by Christie's at auction in 1994 for £ 7.7 million (US$ 11.9 million), by far the highest price ever paid for an antiquity. 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. The relief had been brought back from the site of Nimrudmarker in northern Mesopotamia (Iraqmarker) by Sir Austen Henry Layard along with other antiquities which were displayed at Canford before it was a school. Originally Canford had been a country house (known as Canford Manor), designed 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 Ninevehmarker Porch". It was however thought by the school that the frieze was 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 its place at Canford and a number of "Assyrian Scholarships" are available, funded by the proceeds of the sale. The original relief is now part of the collection of the Miho Museummarker in Japan.

The sale helped pay for the construction of a new schools theatre, known as the Layard theatre, which features regular productions. Proceeds from the sale also helped pay for the construction of a new sports facility.

  • John Malcolm Russell, 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. 1997.

  • Judith McKenzie, "Canford School", ch. 10 of Russell 1997 (above), pp. 173-189.

  • Samuel M. Paley, "A winged genius and royal attendant from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud". Bulletin of the Miho Museum 2 (1999), pp. 17-29, Pl. 1.


The Old Canfordian Society

Reserved for those pupils who have left the school, the "O.C.s" come back for frequent reunions and social events. Some O.C.s have later gone on to become school governors after forging successful careers, most notably Peter Lovell.


The Heretics' Society is a Sixth Form discussion group, comprising about twenty members, where the emphasis is on the honing of analytical and discursive skills rather than on the rhetorical flourish and exhibitionist flair that might be found in a traditional debating society. The basis for a meeting is the reading of paper by a member of the society; recent topics have ranged from a probing enquiry into the nature and purpose of consciousness, through a hotly contested investigation into the possible justifications for torture, to an inconclusive stab at the proper purpose of education. Led by an appointed committee, comprising three members led by the Chairman, the meetings are conducted in an atmosphere in which ideas can be presented and explored with an openness of mind while at the same time being challenged with benign rigour.

John o'Gaunt Debating Society

A society which is almost as old as the school itself, it is open to all members of the school who wish to engage in stimulating, articulate and intellectual discussion on topics ranging from politics to social and ethical issues. The society has an elected committee comprising four members, led by the Chairman.


A religious society for the school's Christians, it has grown in membership over the past few years and Ichythans is now a stimulating, warm environment for pupils to discuss their beliefs and thoughts. It is run by the Chaplain of Canford and other Christian teachers and often features talks from students or visiting Christians.

The Layard Society

Named after Sir Austen Henry Layard, this society is for Sixth Form History students. Visiting speakers often attend and other meetings offer an opportunity for A-level Historians to prepare and deliver lectures themselves.

Literary Society


A political society open to all those studying Politics in the Sixth Form, Politicos is named after the famous bookstore near Parliamentmarker. Guest speakers are frequently invited to give talks and answer questions from the students; recent guests have included Annette Brooke and Ann Widdecombe.

Physics Book Club

Notable Old Canfordians


External links

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