Shuttleworth Collection

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The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Bedfordshire

“The Shuttleworth Collection is based at Old Warden, Bedfordshire. The Collection depicts the history of flight from the early 1900s to the 1950s and shows how the aeroplane was rapidly developed through necessity during World War I, was used for sport, pleasure and business in the 1920s and 30s and once again became a fighting machine in World War II.

The Collection is displayed in eight hangars, which include a workshop hangar giving the visitor a chance to view restoration and maintenance in progress. There is also a vehicle section, displaying vintage and veteran cars, motorcycles and bicycles and, from a bygone era, the coach room with horse drawn carriages.”

So, what makes this different from other aircraft museums?

The answer to this is that these aircraft are not just static museum pieces – they all still fly (weather dependent).

Approximately eight times during the year, flying displays take place during the day and evenings when as many of the exhibits as possible take to the sky. When we visited this year, the weather was perfect to enable the Edwardian aircraft, including the genuine Bleriot and the Bristol Boxkite replica to take to the skies (think of the film ‘Those magnificent men in their flying machines’). The Collection includes both the oldest flying aircraft in the world and the oldest British flying aircraft. They also have visiting aircraft flying in. We saw a British display team flying Russian aircraft as well as a visiting Spitfire – it really was like stepping back in time. Also to be seen on flying days and evenings are the Collection’s vintage motor cars and motorcycles, complete with suitably attired drivers and passengers that parade along the flight line with suitable commentary.

Parking is on the field, just in front of where the flying takes place and for budding photographers, prior to flying, there is an opportunity to walk amongst the aircraft taking as many photographs as you wish. I think there’s a £5 charge for this. For wheelchair users, there is a hard standing area just adjacent to the Control Tower.

Your admission ticket on flying days also gives you access to The Bird of Prey Centre and The Swiss Garden. There is also a welcoming, well stocked Visitor Centre as well as a very popular restaurant and plenty of toilets on site.

We are local to this Centre, (although only visited for the first time last summer) and enjoyed it so much we have joined their Friends’ Scheme (SVAS) which gives unlimited free access to the Collection throughout the year and also reduced admission on flying days. 

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