The elegant little village of Canford Cliffs, on a hill-top overlooking Poole Harbor, like Branksome Park, is another wealthy residential area. On its slopes it has a very modern church designed by Lionel Gregory in 1962 to replace a little Mission Church built in 1911.
Nikolaus Pevsner, in his Buildings of England described Canfordís pride and joy as the exact ecclesiastical equivalent of Dunromin and Thisledo. He disliked its bungaloid appearance. Few locals would agree with him. The simplicity of the interior is a feature, it has many fine and interesting features, such as the Japanese oak choir stalls that were carved locally, and the black roof rafters from the original church.
The pride of Canford Cliffs are the beautiful gardens of Compton Acres. Four owners are responsible for the creation and upkeep of this showpiece which delights thousands of visitors each year.
At the end of the First World War, Thomas William Simpson bought the Neo-Tudor Compton Acres Mansion, built in 1914, and conceived the idea of surrounding it with a unique series of independent gardens, planned so that only one garden could be seen at a time.
At the turn of the century, the land had been wild moorland, a wilderness of golden gorse and purple heather, the yellow sandy slopes densely clad in Scots pines. The backcloth to this wild beauty was Poole Harbor, Brownsea Island and the Purbeck range of hills.
On these slopes, Simpson set out his sylvan walks, green lawns, terraces, Lily ponds and fountains. It took several years of intense activity and an expenditure of about £250,000 before the gardens evolved. Thousands of tons of stone, rocks, and good earth were collected. Rare plants, some tropical and sub-tropical were brought in from all over the world. In the unique Japanese garden, every plant was brought from the Far East in a specially chartered cargo vessel which also transported the gardeners who laid it out and planted it.
The Second World War took its toll of the gardens and the death of Middleton, the famous head gardener, quickly followed by that of the gardenís creator, William Simpson, spelled the end for this former oasis of beauty. The inadequate staff could not recreate and maintain the gardens. The rhododendron banks became impenetrable jungles, and the tall trees merged their branches overhead, blotting out the life giving sun.
In 1950, Compton Acres was saved. Architect J. S. Beard, who designed many English cinemas during the cinema boom, purchased the property, restored it and re-opened it to the public. It was one of the new owner's pleasures to sit by the side of the fountain in very old gardening clothes and when a happy visitor id "I would like to meet the man who is lucky enough to own all this, he would beam and reply, well you are talking to him now. In 1956 he added a very personal touch to the beautiful gardens. He built a little circular picnic garden, walled in Purbeck stone. It was a memorial to his son Dick, killed whilst flying with the R.A.F. in 1942, and to his two young daughters who were tragic victims of polio.
John Brady bought the gardens in 1964. John and his wife hailed from Devon. The Bradys enjoy sharing their home with the visitors and realize that without their support, it would be impossible to maintain this splendid estate where, in the course of half an hour, the visitor can find himself in distant Japan, or in a Roman garden, beside an Italian lakeside, or in a simple English garden with velvet lawns and flowering shrubs and the old fashioned flowers of the country.
The gardens were sold again in 1985 and Simpsonís fine house turned into flats