Bradpole Parish Council has produced this short history of the Civil Parish sourced largely from Bridport Museum’s Local History Centre.
Caveat: In compiling this information we have found that the further one delves back into history the less robust are the facts.
The Civil Parish of Bradpole was once much larger than it is now and stretched down to include a section of what is now Bridport at Rax Lane and Mountfield (Home of Bridport Town Council). The current boundaries encompass Bradpole old village and the part of Pymore village east of the River Brit. A significant chunk of the Parish boundary was altered when the railway came to this area to ensure that the main local station fell within Bridport and not Bradpole. Although the railway has long since departed the strip where the station once stood remains within the Bridport town boundary.
In the 12th/13th centuries Bradpole was centred around a Manor House and Church. The Manor House was built by members of a French Norman family named the de Morevilles who came from the Caen area of Normandy and had connections with the 11th century Abbaye de Montebourg which exists today as an Agricultural College. The Manor at one time was in the ownership of Catherine Parr (see below)
The first Norman church at this time was named St Andrews.
This church was replaced in Tudor times and took the name Holy Trinity. The present Victorian church was built in the 1840’s. see: Holy Trinity Church
It is believed that the Manor House was destroyed during the English Civil War (1642 ~ 1651)
A significant occurrence involving Bradpole in 1651 was the escape of the future King Charles II via Lee Lane, The Asker valley, Watton Hill & Pymore. (Part of the 600m+ Monarch’s Way Long Distance Footpath). You can keep up to date on who’s walking the path at:
This event is commemorated by the stone at the junction of Lee Lane and the A35.
The Maiden Newton to Bridport branch line was opened on 12 November 1857. It was extended to West Bay in 1884 but the extension was not well used and it closed to passengers in 1930.
The branch line passed through Bradpole and the Parish Council took ownership of a strip of land and crossing gates in stages during the 1970’s / 80’s following the line closure in 1975. The gates are maintained as part of the Parish heritage and the adjoining land at Caley Way is maintained as a small amenity area together with a few allotments.
A notable son of Bradpole was the politician W.E. Forster
(see separate page)
In 1861 he was elected MP for Bradford and entered Government in 1865. He was responsible for carrying the Education Act of 1870 through the House of Commons and was committed to universal education.
The Forster Memorial Institute was built in 1889 by public subscription.
2018 marked the bi-centenary of W.E. Forster’s birth which was acknowledged in the parish council minutes of July 2018
“The Knapp” built in the 1890’s was the country residence of Alexander Meyrick Broadley (1847 – 1916), also known as “Broadley Pasha”. Broadley, the son of a Bradpole rector, was a British barrister, author, company promoter and social figure.
At one time during the 20th century “The Knapp” was the home of the St. James Secretarial College. It was during this period, in 1941~1942, that the building became the “German Army HQ” as the allied forces rehearsed for the ill-fated Dieppe Raid.
The building is now the St James Nursing Home.
In 1911 Bradpole held a pageant to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Catherine Parr (last wife of Henry VIII) who owned the manor and lands following her subsequent marriage to Thomas Seymour 1st Baron of Sudeley.
Bridport Museum’s Heritage Centre has a large collection of photos of the pageant together with participants’ names.
Bradpole was a farming village surrounded by typical Dorset countryside but Bridport’s 20th century expansion led to a lessening in the effects of the historic assets of the village.
Despite the modern housing surrounding it the character of the Old Village has been largely maintained and is now a Conservation Area with a number of listed buildings.
Bradpole has a connection to Pymore with the cottages at “Newfoundland” The “Newfoundland” gardens are peculiar to Bradpole and may have been used in connection with the industry of the Mills. They are regarded to be of social and historical interest. The red brick houses and gardens were built in the early 20th century for the workers of Pymore Mills and are part of Bradpole’s heritage.
It is thought that the name “Newfoundland” may come from the trade in sail cloth between Bridport & Newfoundland.
Pymore “A Place of swampy ground infested with insects”
Well that may have been the case once but now it is a pleasant residential village in its own right whilst retaining a light industrial presence.
The place is described in Domesday as “land owned by Robert de Pymore”
Whilst Flax was grown in Roman times it wasn’t until the 18thC. that Pymore flourished as a centre producing shoe makers twine and flax sailcloth. Pymore Mill was described in 1789 as a flour and hemp balling mill.
By 1812 Joseph Gundry, Samuel Gundry, J.G. Downe, William Fowler & John Gale formed the “Pymore Flax Mill Company”. In 1834 it is recorded that there were 63 female and 13 male employees working up to 69 hours per week.
Records show that the Millpond at Pymore was a favourite haunt for punting and fishing and became a skating rink in the winter attracting large crowds.
The Victorian School House was built in the 1870’s by a member of the Gundry family in memory of Edward Gundry who drowned at West Bay.
Ownership of the factory changed hands over the years and prominent owners in the 20th C. were the Suttill family.
Hidden behind residential houses in Pymore village is a Grade II listed 19th century construction being a single-segmented arch bridge which had two compartments thereon. This was the privy for the employees of Pymore Mill
Demand for Pymore’s products fell in the 1950’s and there is a poignant letter to employees dated May 1955 advising that the factory was to close.
The site was sold for development in the 1980’s but faced strong local opposition from those who wished to see its heritage retained. Although some people were still living there the site was becoming dilapidated and attracted press comments such as “Who Is Going To Save This Lost Village?”
Various interest groups lobbied for the protection of the site and CPRE sought a judicial review of planning agreements in 2000 but eventually the site was regenerated into what we see today.
The historical photos have been reproduced here with the kind permission of the Bridport Museum Local History Centre
The Local History Centre at The Coach House in Gundry Lane has a collection of paperwork and old photos relating to both Bradpole and Pymore.