Shuttleworth House & History
A Brief History
Old Warden was originally called ‘Wardone’ meaning a watch hill, presumably referring to the wooded hill called the ‘Warren’ located on the estate. At the time of the Doomsday Book, the estate belonged to Walter Spec and during the reign of King Stephen, he founded Warden Abbey, the earliest Cistercian Monastery in Bedfordshire, part of which is still visible today on the road, which joins Old Warden to Cardington. Old Warden was famed for its pear orchards, and these pears were made into the ‘Hot Warden Pies’ mentioned Shakespeare’s play, The Winter’s Tale.
After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, the land of Warden Abbey was divided up and passed through many hands, from being part of the endowment of Princess Elizabeth in 1550 to Henry Prince of Wales in 1610, the Corporation of London, Sir Frances Bacon and Lord Mordaunt, until sold in 1627 for one hundred pounds to Robert Palmer.
Samuel Ongley, Director of the East India Company, then bought the estate and he was resident in an unpretentious red brick manor house, which stood on the site of the present house.
The Ongley family lived at the estate from the 1600s until the late 1800s and are responsible for the present aspect of Old Warden Village and the Swiss Gardens after being inspired by P.F. Robinson’s ‘Village Architecture’ published in 1830. The Shuttleworth family continued to build and develop both.
In 1872, Joseph Shuttleworth bought Old Warden Estate. The original red brick manor house, which was built by the Ongley family, was pulled down, the architect Henry Clutton, a prominent Victorian architect, was commissioned to design the House you see today, built by local firm Cubitts, with William Bennison as the Clerk of Works, and Edward Milner reworked the landscape.
Joseph Shuttleworth, who had inherited a boat building business, went into partnership with Nathaniel Clayton, an iron foundry owner. Together they set up and developed a successful engineering firm called ‘Clayton and Shuttleworth’ and became world leaders in the production of steam traction engines revolutionising the agricultural industry with portable steam engines and threshing machines. The company was based in Lincoln and had a workforce of thousands, exporting across Europe. In WWI, the factory started building aircraft, notably the Sopwith Triplane and Sopwith Camel, both of which can be seen at the Collection. One of the most notable aircraft built by Clayton & Shuttleworth was Sopwith Camel B7270 flown by Canadian pilot Roy Brown that had been credited with shooting down the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen, although now disproved.
Joseph Shuttleworth married Sarah Grace Clayton in 1841 and had two sons Alfred & Frank. Frank the younger of the two brothers was born in 1845. He became chair of the family firm and was a Director of the Great Northern Railway and one of the original members of Bedfordshire County Council. On his death in 1883 his younger son, Frank, inherited Old Warden Park with Alfred inheriting the business and properties in Lincoln.
Frank loved shooting and Old Warden became renowned for its pheasant and partridge shooting. Joseph and Frank delighted in buying furniture and paintings appropriate for their family home. Gillows of Lancaster made many of the interior furnishings and there are several magnificent examples of 19th century paintings on the walls, produced by artists such as Sir Frank Dicksee, William Leader, George Vicat Cole and Frank Holl. Frank was a Major in the seventh Hussars and become known as Colonel Frank when he raised the Bedfordshire Imperial Yeomanry in 1901.
Shuttleworth Family History
In 1902, Colonel Frank Shuttleworth married Dorothy Clotilda Lang, the youngest of the Reverend Robert Lang, Vicar of Old Warden; Robert (Bob) Lang had been the fastest bowler in England whilst playing at Cambridge. It was a happy marriage and in 1909, they had a son, Richard. Richard was an indulged child who loved the estate and the village. In 1913, when Richard was 4 years old, his father, Frank Shuttleworth, died. Dorothy took over the running of the Estate aged 34.
Dorothy married Brigadier-General William McClaren Campbell and had a daughter Anne Elspeth Campbell but Dorothy’s happiness was not to last and after only 10 years of marriage Brigadier General Campbell died leaving her a widow yet again. Dorothy changed her name back to Shuttleworth for ease of running the Estate.
By this time, Richard’s passion was anything engineering and he loved nothing more than tinkering on engines, much to his school’s dismay! In 1932, Richard inherited the Estate and that of his Uncle who died in 1925 with no heirs. He was successful at motor racing winning the first Grand Prix held at Donnington in 1935 but Richard decided to take up flying after a racing accident, as he deemed flying safer than racing cars! Richard built up a sizeable collection of cars and later aircraft, which now form the Shuttleworth Collection.
When war broke out it was only natural for Richard to become involved so he joined the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve (RAFVR) as a Pilot Officer, however, his war effort was brief and on 1st August 1940 Richard was killed shortly after take-off on a night flying exercise from RAF Benson in a Fair Battle. Dorothy, although devastated by her son’s death took over management of the Estate, which was currently being used as a Red Cross convalescent home, and auxiliary hospital, patient records are held at the County Archives in Bedford.
In 1944, Dorothy decided to turn the Estate into a Charitable Trust in memory of her son “for the teaching of the science and practice of aviation and of afforestation and agriculture” two of Richard’s passions and in 1946, the doors of Shuttleworth College opened. It is still a successful land based college operating on this site by Bedford College. Dorothy was Chairman until her death in 1968 aged 89.
It was not until 1963 that the Shuttleworth Collection opened to the public and it now boasts way over 50,000 visitors a year to the collection of working aircraft, engineering workshops, café, shop and flying events. To complete the picture, in 1981 the Swiss Garden was opened to the public for the first time and has recently undergone a complete Heritage Lottery Funded restoration.
Today, The House, Swiss Garden and Collection are operated to deliver on the charitable objective of The Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust and Dorothy’s vision, to create an environment to promote and educate people in the main interests of her son: estate management, aviation and automotive transport and to link the House and Parkland with the Swiss Garden, Old Warden Aerodrome and Home Farm, to complete the Shuttleworth Story.
For more info and to get in touch with our House team click on the links below…
House Open Dates
Come along to Shuttleworth House and have a look around FREE OF CHARGE – explore the grand rooms of this former family home and learn about the rich history of the House through the decades since it was first built 149 years ago!
With expert volunteers on hand and a huge array of informative exhibits on display we hope to see you soon…
Sun 10th March 2024
Monday 1st – Thursday 4th April 2024