Sources unknown - probably 1975 and 2002
Old Warden ... "watch hill" - an appropriate name in its location which overlooks the Ivel Valley to the east.
The origins of the village lay with the Abbey, now recalled only by a post Reformation fragment restored by the Landmark Trust as holiday accommodation. The abbey was at one time famous for growing Warden pears, a variety of cooking pear mentioned by Shakespeare.
However, underground some interesting things have been found, at first in the 19th century by a Bedford schoolmaster, Bradford Rudge, now lost, and recently in the form of magnificent tile mosaic pavements which have been lifted for eventual display in Bedford Museum. The village had an older identity as can be discerned by careful examination of older properties. All is a pleasantly picturesque part of our rural scene. In a harsher age where such harm has been done to village and countryside its survival adds to the charm of Bedfordshire.
The architect Henry Clutton built the present Old Warden Park mansion for Joseph Shuttleworth in 1876, replacing the house built for the Ongleys. It is in Jacobean style, a sort of grafting of late 15th century French gothic detail onto English 17th century forms. An unlikely mixture most effective in the tower, and on the lodge gates. The mysterious adjoining Swiss Garden, the planting for which Lord Ongley was responsible, is a delightful combination of summer houses, ponds, kiosks and statuary is too fragile to be open to the public and, at present is the subject of discussions on the cost of restoration. (Postscript - this is now open to the public). It adjoins the famous Shuttleworth Aircraft Collection now very much a tourist attraction.
The Park emained the residence of the Shuttleworth family until 1944 when, after the death of her pilot son, Richard, during the 2nd World War his mother Dorothy Shuttleworth decided to place the estate in a charitable trust in his memory. She wanted to ensure that it would be used for agriculture and aviation eduacation, two particular interests of her son.
The main house opened as an agricultural college in 1946 and is still thriving today; its future has recently been secured by an agreement with Writtle College, Essex, who will continue to run the college on behalf of the Shuttleworth Trust. Today Old Warden Park also has a sucessful conference centre and is home to the Enlish School of Falconry.
The village, as it looks today, was the work of Lord Ongley of Warden Park. He rebuilt the village in the early 19th century giving it the distictive honey-coloured thatched and tiled cottages. lining a single village street. Further houses were added in a complementary style by the Shuttleworth family when they acquired the estate in the 1870s. A feature of the village is the Hare and Hounds public house, renown locally for its excellent beers and home cooked food.
The 12th century St. Leonards Church lays above the village is most notable for its interior of richly carved woodwork assembled by Lord Ongley in 1841. Some is Belgian and German work, there is genuine Elizabethan and Jacobean panelling, and there is medieval glass in one of the windows, believed to have come from Warden Abbey. The general effect is unusual for an English county church which is perhaps why it attracts so many visitors.
Old Warden Notes
Warden Abbey gave its name to pears and pie.