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History of the College

An excellent and interesting article on the history of Shuttleworth as an Agricultural College from the 1940's to the present day has been prepared by Tom Griffiths.

Tom will be known to nearly everyone who went to Shutts, as an old-boy himself (NDA 1952 - 1954), and as a lecturer from January 1956 until August 1988.  Living in Bedford and still involved with the SCA committee, he tells me that since he is 80 now he doesn't get out so much, but believe me he's right on top of e-technology.  I hope he will provide us with more remarkable memories of Shutts from time-to-time.

We are indebted to him for compiling an informative and amusing article:  learn how Mrs  Shuttleworth, Miss Willett and Matron managed to "oust" a Vice Principal over a matter of the wattage of light bulbs and a Principal over funding arrangements!

It is a lengthy work, which deserves publishing in full  - my initial thought of précising it would not do it justice....but when you have 5 minutes please proceed to read on and enjoy!



To look back over the last fifty years is indeed a very short period of history but nevertheless a significant part of anyone's life!  Shuttleworth College opened its doors to the first of its students in 1946. I shall look at three aspects in connection with its history.

Agricultural Education

The College    Principals : Mr Atkins  Dr Miles Mr J R Bond  Mr K Russell  Dr J E Scott

The Old Student Association

Agriculture Education was assured of success from the end of WW2; the 1947 Agricultural Act placed our domestic agriculture on a firm footing and thus ensured a demand for well trained and educated agriculturists, it was in the early years a period of expansion.  The Government of the day commissioned a report on the state of Agricultural Education in the early 1950's. To be brief they identified three levels:

County Farm Institutes, (certificate courses)
Agricultural Colleges, (diploma courses)
University Departments, (degree courses)

Their main conclusion of the future of these three was that the first and last would flourish and that the Agricultural Colleges would decline.  In fact the opposite occurred!

In the early years the Institutes and the Colleges came under the wing of the Ministry of Agriculture, I do not suppose that this was a convenient arrangement for the Mandarins at Whitehall, who campaigned for the authority to be moved to the Department for Education.

The success of the Colleges was a cause of concern also and they saw the move as a means of redressing the success trend, the Farm Institutes were finding it difficult to flourish and many of the University Departments had closed due to a shortage of students.

As Governments do, they commissioned another report, and it was published as the Pilkington Report in the late 1960's.  It recommended the move to the Department of Education and that the Diploma Courses follow the pattern for other industries, namely that there be two levels of diplomas, Ordinary and Higher and that the Sandwich principle be adopted.

The NDA award was phased out in the early 1970's after a very long period of supervision by the Royal Agricultural Society of England [RASE], the equivalent Scottish body supervised an identical award north of the border. Approved colleges in England & Wales submitted students for examination at Leeds in July providing they had passed the 1st Part at their educational establishment.

Results were published of the success and failure rates by the Colleges, although they were not named, it was not difficult to identify them. The current clamour to publish results for schools as a means of improving standards is far from new!

Although referred to as "National" the HND and OND which replaced the NDA, were internal examinations and there were NO published result tables for comparison. Had there been any they would have been rather meaningless anyway.

There were many changes brought about by the move from the NDA Examination set-up which were not for the best. The Sandwich Year method suited "Industry" better than it did Agriculture, as the former could place many students with one employer whereas in Agriculture it was usually one student. This brought about supervision problems as many of the smaller colleges could not afford to employ specialist supervisors, you can imagine what happened! Changes in agricultural practices and commodity production success have both resulted in less agricultural employment prospects with a consequent reduction in student numbers.

Shuttleworth College

Quite recently I played golf with an ex-student, one of the 1948 intake, the beginning of the College as we knew it, although there were students at the College as early as 1946. In 1956 I remember Mrs Shuttleworth giving each of us a bottle of special ale with our evening meal to mark the first ten years.

The early students were from the College of Estate Management, London, their Principal, Mr Atkins, was a firm friend of Mrs Shuttleworth and I am sure advised her on college policy. Colonel Worsely was also associated with the Estate Management Body and influenced her too on college matters.

There were three reasonable intakes of student numbers from 1950 to 1954, no doubt as the result of a large number of ex-servicemen entering agriculture. In the Autumn of 1954 I think the student numbers had fallen to a dozen, give or take one or two! The College was facing a financial crisis, although it had assets in the form of agricultural land and many houses, the Estate produced very little income. The Chemistry Lecturer in my time received a cheque from Mrs Shuttleworth in order to buy some chemicals to enable him to run practical classes!

Dr. Miles was the Principal in 1952, he was a Zoologist and had been a Head of Department at Uppingham School prior to coming to Shuttleworth, he was a Gentleman of the first order.  By the beginning of 1954 I think he was  under considerable stress over College finances and struck a deal with the Department of Agriculture to receive financial aid.

The Department had to that time refused to assist the College as Mrs Shuttleworth used the house as a residence and controlled the garden staff, etc.  I believe Dr Miles promised to separate the finances.  He was given notice and left in two weeks!

The RASE then stepped in and laid down some rules if Shuttleworth wished to remain a recognised college with a right to submit students for the NDA Examination.  They required two nominees of their choice to join the Governing Body, the acceptance of Mr J. R. Bond as Principal, and separation of the Accounts.

Mr Bond had been the Chief Examiner at the NDA Examination for nearly twenty-five years and had been the Principal at the Derbyshire Farm Institute since before the outbreak of the First World War. He was awarded the MBE and the OBE for services to Agriculture in each of the World Wars. He had written the first text book on agricultural machinery and had developed milk powder for the artificial rearing of calves.

After he retired from Shuttleworth I stayed with him at Derby and joined him as a hospitality guest, first at a hotel and then to see Derby County play.  I was amazed at his standing with the feedingstuff firms, they treated him like royalty. He was Principal until Kenneth Russell arrived. During his time he built up through his connections, student intake numbers, and reared every calf he could lay his hands on to graze the park lands at Old Warden.

Through Col. Worsley, a Vice-Principal was eventually appointed to assist Principal Bond during his last year. The V.P. had just left the army and was a very well appointed young man.  Unfortunately he had a difference of opinion over the wattage of bulbs in the student bedrooms, and replaced the 60 W with 100 W without consulting the three ladies. Mrs Shuttleworth, Miss Willett and the Matron, a very grave mistake, he left at the end of the week!

Principal Bond in his last report at Speech Day, for the 1956-57 Session reported that students in residence numbered 79, 51 being freshers, and applications for entry in October numbered about 70. Reporting on the farms, he stated that the number of cattle was 242 compared with 225, 178 and 121 in the previous three years. A much improved situation and I am sure appreciated by the next Principal.

The next Principal was Kenneth Russell. He came to the College in the Autumn of 1957 after twenty years in agricultural education and his years at Shuttleworth were his finest. He was quick to capitalise on the cattle numbers. He sold them and bought arable tackle; he took advantage of the sandy soil and the nearby water, and a wealth of student labour to lift the early potatoes!  He grew seed corn on the newly ploughed grassland, as it was reasonably free of wild oats, and we (the lecturing staff) harvested the corn in 2 cwt. railway bags, until Arthur Davey built the silo system at Home Farm.

K. N. Russell didn't miss a trick, so to speak.  He made Shuttleworth a national word not only by using others to their full potential but by giving of himself without reservation. You had to admire him, task master though he was!  I got to know him because I drove him to Heathrow on many an occasion to attend many of his international lecturing commitments.  It was the only time I had an opportunity to really talk to him, if his feet were on the ground he was off!  He was proud of his farming and the College and cared about all its aspects, he was so pleased when the rugby team won, especially against the Royal.

It was typical of the Principal that he would take the final lecture on Saturday mornings, yes, Saturday lectures in those days!  On the timetable it was 12 noon to 12.50 pm.  I know it was of great concern to those who had away sports fixtures when he would frequently go on till 1.15 pm.

It was not all one way, as the students would have their own back at their annual concert and pull his leg without mercy. He would be seen in his seat wriggling, shaking his head and exclaiming No! No! No!. He tried to counter this by getting his wife involved as the pianist for the concert party, whether she tried or not I don't know, it had little effect!

I remember too, the small triangle field to the west of Home Farm House the year it grew rape as a catch crop.  There was a total crop failure in the centre of the area, the experts claimed it was due to drainage seepage from the Home Farm House.  It was used as a residence and student hostel by Edward Bennett and his selected band of students, the urine was said to be very strong as they consumed vast amounts of a brown liquid. Mr Russell was questioned in class about the crop failure but did not satisfy student curiosity.

One day the Principal went to Biggleswade to meet a VIP from a publishing firm who was coming up by rail. When he was driving him down the driveway past Home Farm he saw the reverse of a large notice board in the middle of this vacant patch, on closer inspection it said Watch this Space. Everyone kept out of his way for a while after that as it was said that he was flaming mad!  He thought a great deal of "his" students and helped many of them after they left college and the students for their part admired him greatly.

By 1960 the reputation of the College was well established, the year before we had a visit from the Committee for Agricultural Colleges. Their previous visit was in 1954 and so much progress had been made since that time that they recommended grant aid to Shuttleworth. As a result in the Autumn of 1961 the Dining Hall Block was opened giving much needed dining and bedroom facilities.

The bedroom accommodation was recently refurbished and is now known as the Chris Smart Wing, a very fine suite of rooms.  More land was taken on by the College and more students were coming to study at Shuttleworth, the 1960's was certainly a glorious decade for the College.

It was sad that at the end of the decade, in 1969, Mrs Shuttleworth died, but it must have been pleasing for her that her aims when she formed the Trust had been achieved.

Christmas 1967 was a sad time for us all, Ken Russell died suddenly whilst loading sheep on to a lorry at the farm which he rented from Estate, he had only had the tenancy for a few years. His son, George, is still farming there to this day and is a much respected farmer like his dad.  The new Principal was Mr J.E.Scott from the north country and he remained Principal until the College joined Cranfield, or to be correct, slightly after that.

Mr Scott came just before the change over to the Department of Education and the change to the HND and OND era.  He knew how the Department worked and was very successful in obtaining funding for capital development at the College. Most of the new buildings except the Dining Hall Block were built as the result of his applications to the Department of Education.

It was a pity that his success in this area was at a time of increasing agricultural student places in the country but coupled with a decrease in prospective students, the result of a diminishing labour force.

The Farm Institutes were re-named, County Colleges, and many acquired HND status thus competing directly with the National Colleges. Shuttleworth was the smallest of these and the most recently formed. By the mid-eighties Shuttleworth was losing the battle for students and it was essential, if the College was to remain viable for it to join a body with University status.

Eventually from a list of three, Cranfield was chosen, it seemed that they were keen on the idea too and we joined them at the beginning of August 1988.  I retired at the end of that month so was never a part of Cranfield. For this reason I can not claim first hand knowledge of what happened in the next ten years.

After a few years Cranfield were faced with a large deficit due to a Government directive on funding and choose to close the Shuttleworth premises to save money. The Staff and Students moved to Silsoe and were part of that College until recently when they needed to make further economies.

As the world around us changes no institution can remain unchanged unless they have massive funds to hand. I have recently met a few students from the distant past and they have said that they have no wish to visit the College again as it has changed so much.  I can understand the feeling, but must say that I am so pleased when I visit the place now to see it so well kept and meeting the needs of such a variety of people in the community at large. Long may they continue to do this and I admire and congratulate those now involved.

I think I would go even further and wish that the "old " College was a centre for the promotion and dispensation of Information Technology skills.  There is such a need for skilled people and we are very near to Cambridge, the UK equivalent of the USA's Silicon Valley.  With rich connections in I.T. they might even build a golf course on the light land and woodland round the college campus.  I believe that you have to move with the times even though it might not please everyone.

The Old "Boys"

I have no wish to offend the many young ladies who were also students at Shuttleworth, since the first female student was accepted on the HND Course in the early 1970's and they have played a full part in both student and old student organisations.

Old student reunions have always been a part of the educational scene. The earliest record of such events at Shuttleworth relate to the first two Diploma Courses of 1946 and 1948 intakes.  Mrs Shuttleworth organised a Christmas Dinner after their final years, this took place in London and was quite formal down to the dinner jackets.

It would have been expensive to continue in this way and the next reunion was organised by D.S.Kimber, a lecturer in Agricultural Botany.  Old students came back to College for an informal bash, mainly in the cellar rooms. This area was used by students in those days at break times, they used the furnaces to make toast, on these slices they spread whatever rations they had. Food rationing was still in being and there were individual shelf spaces at the entrance to the then wooden dining room. This building was a left over from the war years when the mansion had been a military hospital, at the beginning of the 1960's, this became the first Student Tavern.

The following paragraphs are extracted from the 1954 student magazine.

In writing to you all in this way I sincerely hope I am restarting what I think ought to become a tradition.  By the very nature of the work most of us are engaged in, it would seem, at any rate for some time to come, that only a limited number will be able to attend our Annual General Meeting: a great pity, but inevitable! The Furrow Press, on the other hand provides an excellent medium through which the Chairman can contact you all- personally.
The Association is now in its fifth year, and current membership totals some 140, a figure I may say, that might be considerably larger if certain old students would pay their subscriptions! 
My very best wishes to you all.

There is also a report of a cricket match having been played that summer followed by tea and an A.G.M.  The name has changed and our Association is now known as SCA and we are still trying to contact old students!

In the 1958 Furrow Press the then Chairman of SCOSA acknowledges the offer of administrative help by the College Authorities, the beginning of a very strong bond between the College and the Association.  The 1959 Furrow Press contained a register of members, and fixed a date for the Annual Reunion as the last week in September, the A.G.M. dated the 26th September 59.

In the 1960 journal, as Chairman of SCOSA, I was pleased to express the wish that we would see many more old students at the next Reunion in September 1960. At that gathering Mr Russell took a leading part and we had the morning lecture on Saturday, followed by the famous "Farm Walk", thumb stick and all. The dinner in the evening and church parade on Sunday morning and for those with a strong constitution and no "ties" a final session with E.T.B. at the H & H!

The numbers attending the reunions kept increasing, in some years due to Course anniversaries and to mark the retirement of College Staff. The numbers of "old" students were so large by the early seventies that the Association published for circulation to members a full list.  Instead of including this and other SCOSA news in the Furrow Press, an Annual Newsletter was sent to paid-up members each year free of charge. The Annual Reunion date changed at times, to fit in with the College it was always held during a vacation. For two years it was held in January, to be correct, only once, as the following year it had to be cancelled due to bad weather. Since then it has been mainly held during the Spring Vac.

I would like on your behalf to thank all the people who have given so much of their time to the running of the Association including the many successful reunions and events held at the College over the fifty years.

I end by wishing every success to those who are making such an effort to revive the Association connections and activities.

Tom Griffiths (1952-54)