James Gunter (25 July 1731 – 19 September 1819) was an English confectioner, market gardener and property developer who laid the foundations for what became one of the great residential estates in West London, developed by his descendants, the "Redcliffe Estate" and The Boltons in Little Chelsea and West Brompton.
Gunter was taken into partnership in 1777 by Domenico Negri who had opened a confectioner's shop in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, in 1757 under the sign of the Pot and Pine Apple. In 1797 Gunter was living in New Bond Street, Mayfair, when an incident occurred which showed his nature. A servant of his had stolen and pawned a silver ladle and other goods and was found guilty at the Old Bailey. Her defence was "Mr. Gunter has been a worthy master to me, I hope he will be favourable; he always behaved well to me" resulted in her receiving a fine of one shilling and six months in the House of Correction, while others convicted of similar crimes were sentenced to seven years transportation.
Gunter decided to develop his own farms and market gardens to grow fruit and first became involved in the Earl's Court area - then a prime market garden area in the parish of St Mary Abbots, Kensington - when he took a sub-lease of part of Home Field and Great Court Field from a local farmer in 1797. He bought the freehold of these properties in 1799. He also bought Earls Court Lodge which became the Gunters’ family home for 60 years. By 1799 he had also become sole proprietor of Gunter's Tea Shop which became one of the most fashionable Mayfair meeting places. Earls Court Lodge became nicknamed "Currant-Jelly Hall".
In 1805 Gunter purchased some land where Coleherne Road and Redcliffe Square are now situated. By 1807 Gunter had also bought from speculative builder Thomas Smith some land in Great Court Field and the Home Field land. He also bought a large plot from William Boulton where in 1850 his son Robert I Gunter commenced the building of The Boltons, an exclusive residential area still in existence. He was unsuccessful in his bid to buy some land that would have connected his other plots to The Boltons area but carried on acquiring land on a piecemeal basis with more land at Redcliffe Square and the Boltons and in 1812 bought land between the Boltons and Fulham Road. He started building villas on his property between 1808 and 1810 around Earls Court Road and Old Brompton Road, although these were subsequently demolished in later developments.
Marriage & progeny
Gunter had a son:
- Robert I Gunter (d.1852), to whom he bequeathed his estate in tail male. Robert purchased further land and in 1850 began building the exclusive residential area now known as "The Boltons". He married Fanny Thompson, by whom he had two sons, who further developed the "Redcliffe Estate", including Redcliffe Gardens (east side), Redcliffe Square, Tregunter Road (apparently suggesting a Cornish or Welsh origin to the family name) etc.:
- Sir Robert Gunter, 1st Baronet (1831–1905), eldest son and heir to his grandfather under the entail. He was an officer in the Dragoon Guards and fought in the Crimean War, and was later a Member of Parliament. He voluntarily shared his inherited lands with his younger brother  and developed the property extensively particularly after the arrival of the District Railway at West Brompton. Having resided at Earl's Court Place, an old mansion on his estate (since demolished) he moved to Wetherby Grange in Yorkshire in 1857.
- James II Gunter (born 1833), Dragoon Guards, fought in the Crimean War, inherited further land from his father, which together with his brother he developed as the Redcliffe Estate .
Death & burial
- Pettiward Estate, adjoining the Redcliffe Estate to the west.
- Pennell, S. M. (2008). "Gunter, James (1731–1819)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford University Press.
- Georgian Index - Gunters
- Old Bailey on-line
- Barrettt Solicitors - Gunter Estate History
- The Boltons and Redcliffe Square area: Introduction, Survey of London: volume 41: Brompton (1983), pp. 195-202. Date accessed: 12 October 2010
- Little Chelsea, Old Earl's Court and Finborough Road
- The Gunter estate, Survey of London: volume 42: Kensington Square to Earl's Court (1986), pp. 196-214. Date accessed: 12 October 2010