This page contains some details of the history of our parish and its churches, as well as a profile of the parish today.

A History of the Parish

The "Cliffs of Canford" were originally part of Lord Wimborne's Canford Estate. Between 1880 and 1890, the area was sold to a syndicate which set up the Canford Cliffs Estate Company. Houses were to be built in Haven Road to form the central feature of a village with plots developed on either side. By the early 1930s, over half the plots had been developed and a village hall built. The various open spaces: the chines, cliffs, and pleasure gardens were handed over to the local authority. During the 1920's and '30s, there were regular falls of cliff every Winter. The construction of the promenade and repair of the cliffs helped to prevent further decay. With the lifting of post war building restrictions in the early 1950s, plots were divided, larger houses redeveloped and new blocks of flats introduced. The present Canford Cliffs Society continues to protect the original covenants designed to prevent the development of business or industry within the area. Despite this, land is constantly being sought for development; and in recent years many residential properties have been bought only to be replaced by blocks of flats. The relative shallowness of the harbour waters makes it a natural place for watersports; and it is now regarded as one of the best places in the country for sail boarding.

Sandbanks is a natural peninsula forming a finger of land jutting out to sea at the entrance to Poole Harbour. It is said that in the late 18th century it was cut off by Spring tides and ever since there has been the risk of it becoming a second Brownsea Island. At the beginning of the century, the area consisted entirely of sand dunes apart from two coastguard cottages built in 1850 and a few wooden holiday homes maintained by the more adventurous. Sandbanks was part of the Wimborne Estate and during the 1930s, the first plots were sold off and some permanent homes were built. In post war times, the building of luxury residences with their own waterfront and slipway has escalated with the final infilling of smaller houses, bungalows and blocks of flats. Less than half the dwellings are used throughout the year as permanent homes, the rest being used as holiday flats and second homes. In 1929, the whole of the beach and present recreation ground consisting of 13 acres were purchased from the Estate for the sum of £13. For many years a pier with tea rooms was maintained to the right of the ferry but was blown up in the invasion scare of the 1940's. Marconi undertook many of his early experiments at Sandbanks, and is commemorated by a plaque at the Haven Hotel. The ferry across the Harbour mouth to the Purbeck Hills - built in 1926 and replaced in 1957 and again in recent years - imposes a constant flow of traffic through the area which creates long queues and congestion in the Summer when the weather is good. Two large hotels, the Sandbanks and the Haven, bring a steady flow of visitors and extensive parking allows for a vast influx of day visitors in sunny weather.

A view of our parish ..

Photograph used by kind permission of Kitchenham Ltd., Bournemouth

The Church Of The Transfiguration

The original Church of the Transfiguration was a temporary wooden structure built in 1911 as a daughter church for the parish of St Peter, Parkstone. It was known locally as "The Church in the Glen". The area became what is known as a "Conventional District" in 1945. The parish is now part of the Deanery of Poole and the Archdeaconery of Dorset, within the Diocese of Salisbury. A church room for Sunday School and parish activities was added in 1960, built in Purbeck stone with a copper ply roof.

The foundations for the current stone building - designed by local architect Lionel Gregory - were laid in November 1962. It was decided to retain the supporting roof beams of the original church, and reconstruct a new church around them. The total cost of the church, garden and car park was £54,550. The church was consecrated as the parish church by the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr Joseph Fison, on 26th May 1965. Whilst distinctive and modern externally, it retains a traditional pattern inside. Its plain glass allows the beauty of its setting to be a part of its charm. It is generally regarded as one of the most attractive church sites in the locality.

In November 1998, a project to replace the plain West Window of our church with an etched engraving depicting the event of the Transfiguration narrative was completed. This was commissioned from Miss Sally Scott (Cert RA Schools) who is one of our country's leading artists in this field. It provides a stunning addition to our building internally, as well as providing a very visible witness to those who can view it from the road.

The parish church lies close to the southern boundary of the wooded church grounds which have been enhanced to provide a new Garden of Remembrance with money raised from our Millennium Appeal. The entrance to the church is reached by stone steps to an entrance porch through swing doors at either end of the porch. There is a small car park below the entrance to the church and a larger car park to the east side of the church.

The Chapel Of St Nicolas

The first chapel of St Nicolas - positioned in Panorama Road at the Sandbanks end of the parish - was also a wooden structure built on land purchased from the Harbour Board in 1930.

In 1982 it was decided to replace it with the present chapel - again designed by Lionel Gregory - together with the addition of two bungalows for the use of retired clergy.

This small chapel - which only seats about 30 people - has a weekly service of Holy Communion on Wednesdays at 10.30 a.m.


The Parish Today

Most parishes think that they are unique in some way! This one certainly has unique features; and - if you have time - you might like to read something about the development of the area over the past 100 years or so. To do this, you might like to read our Parish History.

Canford Cliffs is sometimes inaccurately caricatured as the "Beverly Hills" of Bournemouth and Poole ... and indeed, we do have a smattering of "personalities" having homes in the area. Substantial houses, extensive grounds, expensive cars and well dressed residents all help to sustain the myth of a millionaire's paradise. Despite this being a small part of local life, the majority of residents are retired people from all walks of life. We have a large number of elderly people who live alone.

Although the Diocesan Directory lists the population as 1,921 the figure is probably inaccurate. It is considerably larger in the Summer months! The present electoral roll figure is 200. The majority of people are retired and come from other parts of the country after successful careers in industry, banking or the forces. Some have had a connection with the harbour through sailing. Others are attracted by the prospect of golf, bridge and the climate! Some see Canford Cliffs as a desirable residential area with good amenities, carefully protected from the invasion of light industry or the spread of vandalism.

The Church Family

There are currently 200 names on the electoral roll of the parish, nearly all of whom we see on a regular basis. Despite the high average age, we have a very active membership! There are a number of church activities (some of which are listed below).


We tend to use traditional language forms of worship largely because this is what most of our congregation have grown up with rather than from any other dogmatic reason. Our regular services are listed here. We experiment on occasion with other forms and make full use of the Common Worship provision. Our main Sunday mid-morning act of worship usually has numbers in excess of 100. We have a small Sunday School which would be willing to expand if numbers took off!

Regular Services are listed here


Mothers Union: Our new branch was formed in 1996; and has a small but enthusiastic following.


Choir: We have a good musical tradition, with an adult choir of approximately 18 members. As with many churches we currently need more men! Our organist and Choirmaster has good local links which enables our choir to be augmented with other local singers for the larger occasions.

Music : The organ was rebuilt in the early '90s. We welcome occasional visits from choirs and enjoy hosting other occasional musical events.


House Groups: We have two groups which meet year round with occasional breaks; but in Lent several groups participate in Lenten study. In addition, it has been an annual custom for a party to go to Glastonbury Abbey Retreat House for a time of study and reflection.