Chariots of a flyer

Richar Shuttleworth enjoyed a background gew can dream of. And he made the most of it, as Bill Boddy reveals

p>Richard Ormonde (after Lord Ormonde, a godfather) Shuttleworth was born on July 16,1909, at the 7500-acre Old Warden estate at Biggleswade in rural Bedfordshire. His father, Colonel Frank Shuttleworth, had married his mother when he was 57 and she was 23. She was the daughter of the Rev. Lang, England’s then fastest bowler. The bride and bridegroom were presented at court to HM King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, before going to live in Old Warden manor house (built 1872) but had a town house in Berkeley Square. The family wealth came from the long-established firm of Clayton & Shuttleworth, agricultural engineers and steam-wagon makers. At the age of 23, Richard Shuttleworth inherited some 123m in today’s values.

The young Shuttleworth (ROS) went to Eton in 1922 but left prematurely, not expelled, but ‘superannuated’ for failing exams. Richard (only his very closest friends called him Dick) then went to a `crammers’ to enable him to join the Army, as a Second-Lt in the 16th/5th Lancers.

His mother had a driving licence by 1903 and the boy was well-acquainted with cars, driving her Wolseley Ten before he was old enough to do so legally. He was also a good rider, and took to his garrison at Tidworth his bay mare, an Alsatian and a sleeve-valve Sparkbrook motorcycle. He went to Sandhurst in 1930, where he was successful in point-to-point races, attended by his groom. For a wager he rode up two flights of carpeted stairs and down again; his CO was not amused.

He then discovered Brooklands, racing a s/c A7 there in 1931, with zero success. Posted to Midlothian, a faster car was sought. A fellow officer had there acquired a s/c 2.3-litre sleevevalve Arrol-Aster, and ROS got one in London for £.142. At Brooklands, as `R Ormonde’ to guard the estate Trust and his mother from worry, he lapped at 88.15mph, before retiring.

ROS helped pay for sending both cars to Birkin & Couper to be prepared for the 1931 TT, after ‘Lockwood’ (Peter Hope-Johnson) had tried his car, with Jack Bartlett, at Le Mans but retired.

Shuttleworth then decided to opt for Bugattis, with a T35 and a T39, tuned by Papworth’s in Filmer Road, Fulham. During the BARC Senior Mountain Handicap in August 1932, Fotheringham Parker’s Alvis went over the banking and ROS courageously but foolishly stopped on the banking to render help. He then won the Hereford Lightning Long Handicap, and was second in the Lightning Mountain race. In the September Mountain Championship race ROS was third, and second in another such race.

Flying now occupied much of ROS’s time, but he and Charles Brackenbury took a T51 Bugatti to the IoM for the 1933 Mannin Mow., a true road race with hazards now almost impossible to contemplate. ‘The Brack’ led until overtaken by the Alfa Romeos; ROS took over, but when signalled to make a pitstop, he swerved in immediately, skidded and demolished several of the temporary pit structures. He was amused, blaming it on a burst tyre; the car was damaged and he lost his competition licence for a while. The following year he drove more soberly at Donington Park, to a second place behind A H Eccles, both in Bugattis, and then had a great duel with his close friend Charlie Martin in the Donington Trophy event, finishing fourth in his twin-cam T51, ahead of Martin’s single-cam 2.3. ROS returned to the IOM for the Mannin Moar in 1934 but his Bugatti threw a rod.

ROS was already a director of Railton Cars and had set up at Old Warden a business ‘not to make money, but to obtain discounts on racing car parts’ for which he had converted a Rolls-Royce into a truck. When his mother was ordering the latest Rolls, ROS told the salesman they needed it as the other one was being used for muck-spreading. At Brooklands in 1935, he ran both his s/c 2.3 Bugattis at the opening meeting, and at Easter his new P3 monoposto 2.9 Alfa Romeo. Heavy handicaps were against him, but he lapped fastest in Heat One and in the Final of the Mountain Championship. At the Autumn races he won the headline event, and later took the Mountain course record at 82.06mph. At Donington, he drove a steady 25-mile race in the Alfa to beat Eccles in his T59 3.3 GP Bugatti.

ROS rounded off the 1935 season by winning the 300-mile Donington GP with the Alfa Romeo, from the T59 Bugattis of Earl Howe and Martin, with 45.8sec in hand, in spite of tiring brakes.

In the Dieppe GP, he came home fourth after a faultless drive, ahead of such well-known Continentals as Reusch, Bruet and Raph, beaten only by Dreyfus, Chiron and Wimille. In his third try in the punishing IoM race, the P3 Alfa led, but after 14 of the 50 laps, it developed gearbox and back-axle derangements.

In the Nice GP, his Alfa Romeo tailed the works cars of Nuvolari, Chiron and Dreyfus, until the gearbox protested. At Brighton he made 1ID, in 22.68sec (79.36mph), a car record. As with many wealthy young drivers of this era, ROS was full of action and pranks, and he had many speeding charges, one in Hyde Park, and when he and his friends found the local council’s steam-roller still simmering one night, they drove it home, which resulted in a difficult police visit for Mrs Shuttleworth the next morning. One of her important garden parties found ROS bombing it from his DH Dragon with toilet rolls, which streamed on the trees long afterwards. When he went out in his Railton after his licence had been temporarily suspended, the police guarded some of the Old Warden gates, to apprehend him on his return. A gardener rang the house and Mrs S advised her son to remain with his friends overnight But he decided to return, using a little-known back drive. That night he instructed that a table and cutlery be set up at the gate, which was still being guarded, and a full dinner be served to the constable, with his compliments.

He delighted in showing alarmed passengers how well a Railton would skid on dry roads, but his only serious road accident involved his Alvis — an FWD model apparently, behind which he towed an aeroplane. Afterwards he left it in the Tidworth car park, to the annoyance of his fellow officers. He was immediately removed from the local hospital to London by Mrs S and convalesced for six weeks in Madeira.

The cars ROS used included his Railtons, a 1912 open Rolls-Royce, a 1926 30/98 Vauxhall, a hack Morris Oxford, later replaced by a vintage Jowett used for getting from his shed to the aerodrome to lunch in the Paddock (and which during the war Mrs S kindly let me have — we towed it from Old Warden to Farnborough behind Joe Lowey’s 1100 HRG), an Essex Terraplane, a TA MG which ROS would immobilise during wartime by removing its steering wheel, which he would then carry into the Cavalry Club under his arm, and a Ford V8 converted to run on paraffin. In January 1936, ROS went out to South Africa for the East London GP. The Alfa Romeo had been fitted with de Ram shock absorbers and he complained of poor handling even after many adjustments.

The Alfa left the road and ROS was flung out and seriously injured. His mother had a heart problem and was advised not to fly out but came as quickly as possible by sea. Her son was unconscious for 19 days and did not return to England until late in April. He never raced again.

ROS’s other interests included flying and antique cars and aeroplanes, leading to the excellently visitable Shutdeworth Collection of today at Old Warden. His first veteran car was a rebodied 1897 Panhard-Levassor which had taken part in the Paris-Amsterdam race. After much trouble it got to Brighton, after nearly six hours (an average of 7.95mph). The car was thereafter properly restored.

ROS was still with his regiment in Scotland but continued to collect veteran cars such as a tube-ignition Daimler, a 1900 single-cylinder Peugeot used for many Brightons’, and an 1898 belt-drive Benz, bought from Ken Kirton in Honiton in 1930 for 135 and beautifully rebuilt There was also the aforementioned de Dietrich, given a ‘Paris-Madrid’ body and, reputedly, alloy pistons.

ROS loved steam and had a 1901 Locomobile and a White steam-car; he took out an HGV licence so as to drive a steam-roller, and for some time the estate fire-engine was a very aged steampowered Shand Mason. This veteran car activity continued until the outbreak of war. Shuttleworth was as good a pilot as he was a racing driver. He had his first flight with George Stead in 1927 in a DH Moth, and in 1931 he was taught to fly at Renfrew. After his posting to Tidworth he flew with the Hampshire FC, in Moths and a Robinson Redwing. In 1932 he got his A-licence at Brooklands and bought a used Cirrus Moth, G-EBWD, for 1,300. This was eventually crashed on a visit to Mrs S at Clermont-Ferrand, but was repaired and ROS flew it back. There were the usual adventures with bad weather, forced landings and narrow misses. ROS became a director of the Comper

Company and bought two Comper Swifts, the 75hp Pobjoy-engined G-ABWE and a 120hp Gypsy-engined one, G-ACBY.

The 23-year-old pilot and Stead flew them the 6000 miles out to India in 12 days, to compete in the Viceroy’s Trophy Race, in the cramped open cockpits in the cold ofJanuary. ROS retired in G-ABWE with a broken oil pipe but Stead won the Wakefield Trophy, averaging 163.4mph for the 700-mile race.

ROS had by now formed Warden Aviation in Bedfordshire, and eventually bought three Hermes-Desoutimr monoplanes. He also purchased the ex-Prince of Wales DH Dragon, intended for aerial advertising with neon-lit slogans.

He joined the RAFVR and was killed nightflying in that difficult aeroplane, a Fairey Battle, on August 2,1940. He was buried at Old Warden.

Antique aeroplanes fascinated ROS as much as veteran cars and he flew them from time to time. Motor Sport’s former slogan ‘Land, Air, Water’ died long ago, so perhaps I had better just list those he purchased, which started the splendid assembly now at Old Warden — some of which you can see for yourselves on the Collection’s open days. They included a 1910 Deperdussin, a Bleriot XIV with threecylinder Anzani engine, a Le Rhone-Sopwith Pup, a 50hp Gnome-Blackburn, a 1915 ClergetAvro 504, a 1918 Le RhOne-Hanriot and a Spartan Arrow.