Frank & Harold Barnwell

Just over the border in Stirlingshire, is Causewayhead. It was before changes were made to the counties by the Local Government (Scotland) Act in 1973, just a few miles over the border from Perthshire.

In a field, near a roundabout called Causeway Head, two celebrated brothers made early Scottish aviation history and one of them went to design some of the most iconic aircraft of World War I and II.

Just above Causewayhead, on a hilltop roundabout stands the National Wallace Monument commemorating our thirteenth-century Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace. If you are arriving from Bridge of Allan, as you pass Stirling University on the left, Causewayhead lies on the other side. At the Causeway roundabout, is Corrieri’s traditional Italian restaurant, cafe and pizzeria. The memorial to the Bramwell Brothers is on the opposite side of the roundabout.

The brothers travelled abroad for two years in 1903 and during that time met with the Wright Brothers who had undertaken the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903. They built their first glider in 1905 and later built three powered aircraft. They opened the Grampian Engineering and Motor Company in 1906 and this gave them the funds and facilities to pursue their passion for aviation.

Frank and Harold made the first successful powered flight in Scotland on 28 July 1909. This flew for just 80 yards at a height of 13 feet. In 1910, they built a mid-wing monoplane and flew it to win a prize of £50 from the Scottish Aeronautical Society for a flight of over a mile at Causewayhead. It was powered by a Grampian 40hp, twin cylinder engine.

Frank and Harold’s family home was Elco House in Balfron. They were educated at Fettes Academy, Edinburgh and their father was the managing director at Fairfields Shipyard, Govan.

Harold Barnwell became the chief test pilot in 1912 at A V Roe, based at Brooklands. He was killed in 1917 whilst flying a new model of a Vickers fighter aircraft.

Captain Frank Sowter Barnwell OBE AFC FRAeS BSc had a very successful career as an aeronautical engineer. As a noted aircraft designer from 1911 with the Bristol and Colonial Aeroplane Company, he designed such aircraft as the Bristol Fighter, the Bristol Bulldog and the Bristol Blenheim. The Bristol F2 (Fighter) was a two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War. It is often just called the Bristol Fighter or by its popular names, the ‘Brisfit’ or ‘Biff’.

Some artefacts were uncovered before the Grampian Engineering and Motor Company closed in 2003. An original wing strut and a 1/16th scale model of the Barnwell monoplane is on display at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Dunbarton Road.

Frank and Marjorie Barnwell had three sons who all lost their lives in the Second World War:

Flight Lieutenant Richard Antony Barnwell, RAF, 102 Squadron, died age 24, 29 October 1940.

Pilot Officer John Sandes Barnwell, RAF, 29 Squadron, died age 20, 19 June 1940

Pilot Officer David Usher Barnwell DFC, RAFVR, 607 Squadron

Canard Biplane that was damaged after flying 80 yards, 1909

Frank Barnwell

Memorial at Causewayhead