Historic Development of The Court

Bridport was designated a conservation area for its architectural and historic interest in October 1972 and has been extended twice to its present boundaries. The boundary runs along the northern edge of the office and workshop building at The Court and excludes Court Mills to the north. The Court Mills lies within Sub-Area 2 – East and West Streets. The Court is described as a landmark entry building on the approaches to the historic core of the town. It is also highlighted as a key building within the townscape due to its prominent position and as a fine example of a mid-19th
century industrial building. The forecourt at The Court is considered to be a significant space within the townscape.

The earliest reference to twine spinning at The Court was in 1736 when John Gundry was so described when given the lease of the property from his uncle (Sims). John Gundry produced twine and nets following the development of the Newfoundland fishery until his death in 1763. His nephew Joseph Gundry inherited the business and went into artnership manufacturing netting and sailcloth with his brother Daniel. The netting side of the business was carried out at The Court, while sailcloth manufacture was located at the yarn barton in St Michael’s Lane. During the period of the
partnership (1763-1790) the business increasingly focused on twine spinning, line making and net making. As a result the yarn barton and warehousing at St Michael’s Lane were closed and replaced by additional warehousing at The Court.

Between 1833 and 1834 money owed by creditors was called in and the money realised was converted into the capital value of the business. This appears to have been channelled into invested in the capital expenditure required by the introduction of steam power at Pymore Mill. Slape Mill was also rebuilt as a spinning mill in conjunction with Samuel Gundry and William Hounsell & Co. There is no visible investment in machinery at The Court during this period but an increase in the capacity for storage is apparent in the extension of the original warehouse in 1838 and 1844. These
were added to cope with an increasing demand. Following the death of Joseph Gundry IV in 1841 the firm was run by his son, Joseph Gundry V (partner from 1836), and Benjamin Peakes Fox Gundry from 1842. During this period the capital value of the company rose significantly and was £104,229 at the death of Joseph V in 1877. From the 1850s onwards development was concentrated on the northern side of the site. Machinery was introduced to The Court in the late 1850s, including braiding machines. A new line and twine shed was built in 1861 and by 1864 the machinery was being powered by steam. A new laying and finishing shed was being planned in 1867 along with a new braiding shop.

In 1875 The Court was being used as an office and warehouse and this arrangement is confirmed in the early 20th century Plan of The Court Works.

Some of the old sample books dating back to 1890s have been left safely in the large, built-in cupboards on the ground floor, the remains of the history of such a powerful enterprise.