Simon Colbeck reports from the fantastic Shuttleworth Collection Vintage Weekend, held at Old Warden Aerodrome in Bedfordshire.
The first Shuttleworth Collection Vintage Weekend (September 4th-5th) was supported by glorious, sunny weather and offered visitors the chance to admire the delights of the Collection’s own vintage aircraft exhibits as well as a wonderful variety of other fascinating vehicles.
Billed very much as a family-friendly working weekend with demonstrations and displays of all aspects of heritage transport, the team at Shuttleworth certainly put on a superb show for the public. The world-renowned Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aircraft is located at Old Warden Aerodrome in Bedfordshire, within the grounds of the Shuttleworth Estate. For many years the estate was the venue for the Bedfordshire Steam Engine Preservation Society’s annual, three-day traction engine rally which, I’m sure, will be fondly remembered by many readers.
With such a vast number of transport exhibits in the Shuttleworth Collection, it’s always been important to the Shuttleworth Trust to showcase the vehicles to the public at regular air displays. Stuart Gray, vehicle manager for the Shuttleworth Trust, explained how the vintage weekend theme came about: “The Shuttleworth Trust uses distinct themes at its air shows to bring new interest, audiences and connections to its Collection. For a number of years, the vintage theme at our September air show has been very popular, and has given us the opportunity to showcase the Clayton & Shuttleworth story, which is the genesis of the Shuttleworth fortune that led to the Collection. Given the huge logistics of moving large industrial heritage to the site, it made sense to expand the Vintage Air Show event to encourage participants to make a weekend of it.
“Our primary focus for this weekend is the Shuttleworth Collection, and we were delighted at the success of this year’s event with excellent weather and the opportunity to fly Edwardian aircraft in the presence of the vintage steam and agricultural exhibits. We don’t have any plans to make this a larger weekend than the air show can comfortably accommodate.”
A key feature of the event was the number of exhibits working over the weekend. The apron area in front of the hangers played host to a constant stream of vintage buses offering rides, jockeying for position among the vintage cars and full-size and miniature steam exhibits.
The Shuttleworth Collection was originally founded by the late Richard Shuttleworth, of Clayton & Shuttleworth fame. The Trust have built up a truly remarkable collection of agricultural equipment produced by the firm, many of which were in operation at the weekend. These included the Shuttleworth Hayes Pattern straw elevator built in around 1890 and extensively restored by the Trust’s own team in 2016-2017. This was working in conjunction with a 1919-built Clayton & Shuttleworth 4FT threshing drum, both being powered by the Trust’s resident Clayton & Shuttleworth roller conversion No. 46817 of 1914, Dorothy.
The exciting news from the Trust was confirmation that restoration is about to commence on Clayton & Shuttleworth 4nhp portable No. 39959 of 1908. This engine was exported to Australia where it was found in the Murray River, having lately been used to power a chaff cutter. It was repatriated to the UK in the 1990s, and its restoration will tell another important part of the Clayton & Shuttleworth story; one of the UK’s first truly international brands.
Another exhibit illustrating the international nature of the Clayton & Shuttleworth business was Budapest-built Hofherr Schrantz Clayton & Shuttleworth tractor No. 6371. Restored by steam ploughman the late Fred Harris in 2000, and suitably embellished with a red star, the tractor made a striking exhibit displayed next to a visiting Soviet-liveried Spitfire.
One of the highlights of the display of vintage tractors was the very rare 1903-built Ivel tractor. Constructed locally in Biggleswade, this 8hp model is the only known working example of its type. It was originally used as the company demonstrator, and had been tested on land in the Old Warden area owned by the Shuttleworth family.
A number of full-size and miniature road steam exhibits were in attendance with the Vickery family’s superb Burrell traction engine No. 2507 of 1902 looking very good indeed paired with their recently restored, 1926-built Fowler living van.
John Savage’s unusual 725 Stanley Steamer flatbed made a fine sight and noise as it cruised effortlessly around the airfield. Constructed in 1916, it’s believed to be one of 200 of these steamers that served as ambulances in the First World War. John had roaded the steamer the 15 miles from his home to the event.
The opportunity was taken to line up the three buses in their centenary year. The Todmorden Leyland G Phoenix, AEC S type and Leyland/Dodson looked magnificent together, and all provided rides for excited passengers.
Always noted for its superb collection of vintage cars which were complemented by many visiting examples, this event also presented the beautiful 1903 Dietrich and 1898 Panhard; both glowing examples of the restoration efforts of the Shuttleworth’s trust team.
The exemplary weather for the flying display was kind enough to allow the Trust’s collection of vintage early aircraft to wrap up the day’s proceedings before an all-too-brief appearance by the Red Arrows. These remarkable aircraft included the 1912 Blackburn D type, the oldest flying British-built aircraft, and the even older 1909 Bleriot XI; the world’s oldest flying aeroplane. What a way to end a superb weekend of heritage transport on the land and in the skies.
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