This week we will be looking back to a school which went up in flames and was never replaced.

A fire took place at Miss Gundry's Infant School on November, 12, 1906, and the information and pictures about this event have been provided by Neil Mattingly.

Miss Gundry's School was opened in March, 1838 and stood between West Street Mill and The Court.

Most visitors to the town were attracted to the building's whitewashed rubble walls and deep thatched roof, reaching down in some areas to within three or four feet from the ground.

The building was owned by Mr Joseph Gundry's great great aunt, Miss Mary Gundry, who bought the building from Bridport Charity trustees and endowed it as an infant school, after the original school on West Street had moved to East Street.

The building passed on from generation to generation in the Gundry family, and since the coming into power of new educational authorities, there had been no reason for private help beyond the maintenance of the buildings.

Sir Frederick Treves described the school in his 'Highways and Byways of Dorset' in June 1906, when he said: "Another building of interest is the infant school, because it so well fulfils any conception of what a seat of learning for country infants should be.

"It is an ancient cottage with a thatched verandah, where the infants can take the air when resting from their studies.

"The playground is an old fashioned garden by the side of a stream.

"This charming little academy is the village school of a child's idyll.

"It and the Castle Inn (now the Museum) are the two most delightful features in the town."

The fire took place shortly after noon, when flames were seen under the thatch roof of the school, spreading upon the thatch.

Fortunately for the school, scholars had been dismissed at midday for their lunch, and the first sign of danger came when some of the children, ran into the school and informed Miss Dale, the Headmistress, that smoke was coming through the roof.

The Bridport News from Friday, November 16, said: "This was about quarter to one o'clock, and Miss Travers, who was for many years in charge of the school, being near and hearing the lark and realising the danger, ran at once to call the Fire Brigade.

"Fireman Atkins, who works close by, was one of the first on the scene, but chief officer Reynolds, second officer Whetham, and other members of the brigade were quickly on the spot.

"Mr S.Lloyd Whetham also gave assistance.

"Hose lengths were run out and connected with the hydrants, but the town water gave out and the steam fire engine was run down to the place by hand, the gradient of West Street facilitating this operation.

"When steam was up the engine set to work pumping and kept on with but little intermission all through the day and night until about one o'clock the next morning.

"The mill stream gave an unlimited supply of water, but all that could be done was to prevent sparks from flying upon the adjoining premises."

The article later goes on to state that the fire was caused through a defect within the chimney, and due to being fully three feet in thickness, was hard to put the fire fully out until the inner plaster ceiling of the school was pulled down.

Hundreds of people assembled in West Street to watch the progress of the fire crews, with the knowledge that the destruction of this old building was inevitable.

The brigade remained on duty throughout the night and most of Tuesday and even Wednesday, as the saturated thatch was smouldering.

Thankfully at the first sign of fire, Miss Dale had removed the school registers, log book, piano and desks from the burning school.

The Bridport News article also said: "Most of the firemen rushed to the scene in their ordinary attire and were saturated before they could change into their uniforms, which were subsequently brought to them, and they retired to don their more substantial habiliments.

"The damage is estimated at between £300 and £400, and the building is insured in the Commercial Union."

After the the fire, those attending the school were placed into other nearby schools, and the building was never rebuilt.

The Bridport News said: "Nothing of course has yet been decided upon as to the old school premises, and it is extremely problematical as to whether they will be rebuilt."

The tall Gundry Factory building still stands to this day, and the site of the school can be seen when looking across West Street and the bridge towards Gundry's Car Park.

To finish the piece, here is how the Bridport News described the loss of the school: "Indeed, everybody looked upon it with affection and ow that its gaunt walls and blackened rafters on remain, one feels as though an old friend has gone from amongst us.

"The same feelings will stir the breath of Bridport men in all quarters of the globe, many of whom probably learned to lisp their alphabet within its walls."