The village of Canford Magna now has complete peace. It has lost the railway and a new main road bypasses the great house, steeped in history and, since 1923, one of our younger public schools. It stands in 260 acres of lush park on the banks of the river. The village has a mixture of thatch and quaint buildings, mostly serving as residences for teaching staff, and the little traditional state school is now used as a village hall.
The imposing Canford School was once the battlemented house of the Guests, and Lord Wimborne had a coach road built with two bridges crossing main roads to enable him to drive straight to Bournemouth Central Station. The house is a mixture of 19th century buildings. A mock-Tudor house of 1825 was bought by the Guests, of Welsh iron-founding fame, and enlarged from 1848 by Sir Charles Barry with towers and turrets. Embedded within the building is the much older 'John of Gaunt's Kitchen' which, in its time, had housed Salisburys, Montagues, Beauforts and Mountjoys. Boys at the School can sit and study under the trees that were probably there when the Black Prince came.
The complicated and interesting but far from beautiful church is on the edge of the house's grounds. The long chancel is the surviving remains of the late Saxon church. In about 1200 the nave was added with its pretty doorways and arches, turning the earlier Saxon nave into the chancel. A little bell tower was added at the same time. The south aisle of the chancel and the chancel arch were added in the 14th century. Finally the nave was extended westwards in 1876.
In its long history the romantic thriller story of Ela, Countess of Salisbury and William Longespee, a famous knight, is worth recounting. Ela was a wealthy woman and Richard the Lionheart chose her to wed his stepbrother, William. It was a happy marriage but as Earl of Salisbury and Lord of the Manor of Canford, he was often abroad fighting. A long delay in his return from France led everyone to think he was dead.
Hubert de Burgh, the villain of our story, urged her to marry his nephew but she refused, being sure she would one day see her husband sail into Poole.
Her wish came true and William returned, although ill from privations and exposure at sea. He was not pleased with Hubert and, during a reception at Salisbury Cathedral, they quarreled and William died. It was rumored that Hubert had poisoned him but it seems more likely that William died of ill health. Lady Ela retired to a convent but it was her son, William Longespee, who granted Poole its charter in 1248.