Growing up in the village of Canford Magna, many things intrigued me about its history. The main residence, Canford Manor was sold in 1923 and became Canford School. The Wimborne family had owned the manor house as well as many other houses, lodges, stables and even a bridge.
In the area, there were some really distinctive buildings known as Lady Wimborne Cottages. 111 cottages were built for estate workers from 1867 onwards, mostly as semi-detached pairs but with a few variations, by Lady Charlotte Guest, whose husband, Sir John Guest (an iron foundry magnate), had bought the Canford Manor estate in 1846.
Their son, Ivor, was created Lord Wimborne in 1880 and his wife, Lady Cornelia Wimborne, continued the philanthropic project until 1904. They retain their original numbers – which do not equate in any way to street addresses! – above the doorways.
The Gothic revivalist design was drafted by Sir Charles Barry junior (son of the architect of the Houses of Parliament). Most were built by George Jennings, who adapted the design to local usage, using local bricks from his South Western pottery. The residential cottages all display a terracotta plaque bearing the coat of arms of the Wimborne family and a number denoting the chronological order of construction.
Pat Clark’s curiosity got the better of her when she started researching the cottages and, after some remarkable detective work, she compiled a detailed book published by The Dovecote Press. The result is a portrait of the spirit of philanthropy that inspired the building of the cottages, as well as a fascinating insight into the character of two extraordinary women – Lady Charlotte Guest and her daughter-in-law, Cornelia, the Lady Wimborne – after whom the cottages are named.