Old Warden Park

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Old Warden Park
Shuttleworth ag college.jpg
The mansion, Old Warden Park
Grid reference: TL14644423
Location: 52°5’4"N, 0°19’42"W
Village: Old Warden
Built 1875-1876
For: Joseph Shuttleworth
by Henry Clutton
Country house
Owned by: Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth
Remembrance Trust
Website: www.shuttleworth.ac.uk

Old Warden Park is a grand country mansion and its estate at Old Warden in Bedfordshire. The house and the estate are now operated as Shuttleworth College, an agricultural college established in 1944, after the last heir to the estate was killed on active service.

The house itself is a Grade II* listed building.[1] The park, including the Swiss Garden, is listed Grade II* on the Register of parks and gardens.[2] Several other structures around the park are listed buildings noted for their historical and architectural interest.

Also within the estate are the Shuttleworth Collection, a museum of aircraft, both flying and static, with its own active aerodrome, and the Swiss Garden.


The house was built in 1875-1876 by Henry Clutton for Joseph Shuttleworth, who had become wealthy through the success of his Lincolnshire engineering firm, Clayton and Shuttleworth. The house was designed to imitate Gawthorpe Hall (built around 1600), the home of the well-established Lancashire Shuttleworths.

In 1883 a wing was added, probably designed by W Bennison, and further additions and alterations were made in 1896.

The house

The house is remarkable in form, as a giant Victorian homage to the Jacobean model, and following the latter style.

The main house is faced in ashlar, with a service wing partly in yellow brick. Jacobean style. It has a three storeyed rectangular main block, with single-storeyed roof-lit central hall. And prominently a four-stage tower, with a clock face to each side, flanked by louvred windows and surmounted by arcading similar to house parapet.

The ground floor retains most original decoration. The showpiece front hall has a pink marble chimney piece with white marble relief of boar hunt, and plasterwork mouldings to ceiling. The dining room is in a Rococo style, including carved wood fire surround and overmantel. In the billiard room (now the resources room) a carved wood chimney piece incorporates caryatids and panels showing biblical scenes, probably Jacobean, and may be reused from the house of 3rd Lord Ungley, demolished to make way for Clutton's building.[1][3]

Shuttleworth College

Shuttleworth College is a further education college, founded as an independent agricultural college, and now is part of Bedford College. It offers courses and training related to agriculture and the natural environment.

The college was founded in 1944 as part of the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust. Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, the owner of the Old Warden Estate was killed in 1940 while serving with the Royal Air Force. He had a keen interest in farming and estate management and after his death, his mother, Dorothy Clotilda Shuttleworth, established a trust in his memory.[4] The two principal objectives of the Trust were the establishment of the college at Old Warden Park and the development of the Shuttleworth Collection – the unique museum of veteran aeroplanes, cars and other vehicles situated next to the park.

The college enrolled its first students in 1946 and soon established its place as a national centre for agricultural education. The existing buildings at Old Warden Park provided teaching and residential facilities in the early years of the college. From 1960 to 1990 the college campus was extended by the provision of specialist teaching facilities including lecture theatres, laboratories and a conference hall, plus machinery, livestock and agronomy teaching centres. Residential accommodation was also added for 150 students to supplement that available in existing rooms at the park.

In 1988 the college joined Cranfield University, at the time Cranfield Institute of Technology. In 1996, all operations of Shuttleworth College were formally merged with Cranfield's National College of Agricultural Engineering at Silsoe, Bedfordshire, and the Old Warden campus was closed. However, the Shuttleworth Trust re-established the college in 1997, in partnership with Writtle College.[5] Since this time Shuttleworth College has generally been a provider of further education. In August 2009, Shuttleworth left Writtle College, and became part of Bedford College.[6]

The college today specialises in agricultural and environmental education. Courses range from work-based training and leisure programmes to full-time courses up to higher education level. Subject areas include:

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Science
  • Countryside
  • Fisheries
  • Floristry
  • Horse Management
  • Horticulture
  • Outdoor Adventure

The Shuttleworth Collection

The main entrance
Main article: Shuttleworth Collection

The Shuttleworth Collection occupies a broad extent of the north of the estate. It is is an aeronautical and automotive museum; a celebration of flying, a great love of the last of the Shuttleworths, and one in which ultimately he gave his life.

This is one of the most prestigious aviation museums in the world due to the variety of old and well-preserved aircraft. It also has an active airfield.

The collection was founded in 1928 by Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth. While flying a Fairey Battle at night on 2 August 1940, Shuttleworth fatally crashed. His mother, in 1944, formed the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust "for the teaching of the science and practice of aviation and of afforestation and agriculture."[7]

The Swiss Garden

The Swiss Garden is part of the Old Warden Park, laid out on gently undulating terrain, crossed by meandering paths, with many small, separate vistas achieved through screens of shrubs and mature trees around lawns and grassy spaces. It is now a visitor attraction.

The garden was created between 1824 and 1832 for the 3rd Baron of Old Warden, Lord Ongley. When the garden was complete, he threw extravagant parties and even got his servants to dress up in Swiss costume to complete the look. It seeks to imitate (in the flat Bedfordshire countryside) Swiss mountain pastures: excavated soil was used to create embankments and mounds that give the garden its distinctive appearance.

This clever use of earthworks, shrubbery, trees, paths, little lakes and follies transformed the garden into what a contemporary visitor described as a ‘fairyland’. A nearby river was dammed, creating decorative ponds. The style is influenced by medieval groves, with the tall trees in the garden creating a canopy and, in places, naturally covered walkways.

Interesting manmade features in the garden include a thatched tree shelter: a large oak with thatched roofing around the lower trunk. Close by to the north is a marble tablet (1829-30) carved to imitate an open book, inscribed with a poem, possibly by Lord Ongley, to 'The Forgotten One'. There is also a marble well-head (of about 1900) in Italianate style, and 'the Indian Kiosk (1829-30) overlooking the Middle Pond. Towards the centre of the garden, an ornate two-storey octagonal building with a thatched roof, set on a 'curved mound or knoll', as the designer recommended for some buildings in 'picturesque' settings.[8]

An estate cottage, the Swiss Cottage (a Grade II* listed building) stands to the east of the entrance.

Notable mature trees include natives planted as specimens in the C19, together with a variety of exotics. Further woodland lies to the west and north-west of the Swiss Garden, with views over the lake to the west.[2]

Keeper's Cottage

The Keeper’s Cottage was built as a house for the estate's gamekeeper. It is a pretty house, tucked away in the woods, built in 1878 by John Usher for Joseph Shuttleworth, who wanted to bring shooting on the estate up to the fashionable standards of the day.

However after the death of Richard Shuttleworth, the shooting parties on the estate were no more, and a gamekeeper was not required. After the 1940s the Keeper’s Cottage was left deserted and fell into dilapidation. However Usher's original plans survived and from these the Landmark Trust were able to restore the cottage and the collapsed outbuildings. The Trust now provides the cottage for holiday lets.[9]

Queen Anne's Summerhouse

Queen Anne's Summerhouse is an Isolated house on the estate, probably originally a hunting lodge. It may not be as old as its name suggests: a datestone and the Shutttleworth badge proclaim that it was built in 1878s, as a folly. However the fine brick-work, not typical of the 1870s, suggests an earlier origin, perhaps justifying the name. In 1712, Queen Anne knighted Samuel Ongley, who owned the estate at Old Warden, and the Summerhouse might be of this age originally.

The building is a Grade II listed builing.[10]

The Summerhouse was renovated in 1878 by Joseph Shuttleworth, who added the pale terracotta balustrade. It then seems to have served as a pavilion and summerhouse. After the death of the last of the Shuttleworths however the Summerhouse lay neglected, until the Landmark Trust restored it as a bedsit, available for holiday lets.[11]

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 National Heritage List 1222169: Old Warden Park (Grade II* listing)
  2. 2.0 2.1 National Heritage List 1000474: Old Warden Park (Register of Historic Parks and Gardens)
  3. Hunting, P: 'Henry Clutton's country houses' (Architectural history, Vol.26, 1983, pp.100-104)
  4. Th Shuttleworth Trust - about us
  5. Brian Welti (2002-09-01). "Shuttleworth Trust". Shuttleworth Trust. Archived from the original on 22 April 2001. https://web.archive.org/web/20010422060003/http://www.shuttleworth-sca.co.uk/shuttleworth_trusts.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  6. Shuttleworth College: Bedford College
  7. Ogilvy 1989, Ch.1.
  8. The Story of the Swiss Garden: Shuttleworth Trust
  9. Keeper's Cottage: Landmark Trust
  10. National Heritage List 1274768: Queen Anne's Summerhouse (Grade II listing)
  11. Queen Anne's Summerhouse: Landmark Trust