This airshow, usually at the beginning of July, is a wonderful day out at Old Warden aerodrome which is home to The Shuttleworth Collection, opened to the public in 1963. Filling five hangars, this is an amazing collection of vintage and veteran aircraft and motor vehicles including commercials, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and some agricultural exhibits.
On airshow days, Shuttleworth House is open to the public for an insight into the family history and adjacent to the aerodrome is the peaceful Swiss Garden which follows the Regency fashion for Alpine Gardens. There are 13 listed structures linked by a beautiful woodland trail. We explore all this at leisure before settling down for the afternoon airshow featuring the resident Edwardian flying machines and some visiting aircraft including Spitfires, Hurricanes and often the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster.
Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth first landed here in 1932 after the field had been cleared of trees and the Old Warden aerodrome was born. Richard was born in July 1909 and grew up in Old Warden. At age 23 he inherited money from the family business Clayton & Shuttleworth, agricultural engineers and steam-wagon makers. His new-found wealth allowed him to enjoy his passions, horses, aviation and racing. He owned or drove many cars including Alfa Romeos, Bugattis, Arrol-Aster, Rolls Royce, and a vintage Jowett, and went on to have a successful racing career winning the Donnington Grand Prix in 1935. A year later he was racing an Alfa Romeo in the East London GP in South Africa when his car left the road and he was seriously injured. He returned home three months later after recuperating but was not able to continue his racing career. Instead he turned his focus to aeronautics and would track down abandoned aircraft and restore them at Shuttleworth engineering workshop, and thus the collection began. Sadly in 1940, while posted at RAF Benson, his Fairey Battle aircraft crashed whilst on a night training exercise and he was killed. His mother Dorothy kept The Collection alive in his memory and his passion and enthusiasm live on through the museum and the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust (ROSRT). It was in 1944 that Dorothy decided to place the estate in a Charitable Trust in memory of her son. She wanted to ensure it would continue to be used for the purpose of agricultural and aviation education, two of Richard’s keen interests. Today the Trust provide buildings and education for agriculture, heritage and conservation.
The museum today is known for keeping it’s aircraft flying through the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society (SVAS). The volunteers here do a fantastic job and can be seen working in the engineering workshop most days. The aircraft span from the early pioneers to the 50s, some are replicas, and some are rare, priceless and unique, over 100 years old. Richard’s first vintage car, a 1897 Panhard Levassor, which he ran in the Brighton Run, and his first aircraft which still flies today, the DH60X Moth (G-EBWD), are both still part of current The Collection.
Whether the airshow is on or not, this is a museum not to be missed.