Barnwell Brothers
Grampian Motor & Engineering Co.
F. Barnwell
H. Barnwell


Brothers Frank Sowter Barnwell and Richard Harold Barnwell were early members of the Scottish Aeronautical Society and ran the Grampian Motor & Engineering Co., Causewayhead, Stirling, Scotland, after training in shipbuilding. Between them they were responsible for the construction of six machines, before they moved on to appointments with other aviation concerns.

Their first types were biplane gliders, of which little is recorded. It is believed that two were built from 1905 at Balfron, their parent's home. Their first powered machine was a single seater pusher powered by a 7hp Peugeot engine. It did not fly when tested in 1908 at Cornton Farm, Causewayhead. Following a vis to America in 1907, Frank started the construction of a monoplane for which Harold designed the engine. The machine was completed in December 1908 and reached 25 mph on the ground but would not lift off.

The next effort by the Barnwell brothers was constructed by their Grampian company and was a large single-seat canard biplane. Harold Barnwell succeeded in flying for eighty yards on 8 July 1909, but the machine was damaged on landing. After repairs and with the wingspan reduced to 45ft further trials were carried out on 8 September 1909 using a starting rail. A height of 25ft was reached before the machine was damaged beyond repair on 10 September 1909.

The next machine, the last by the brothers, was a single-seat tractor low wing monoplane designed by Harold and built by the Grampian company including the engine. On 14 January 1911 at Causewayhead near Stirling, Harold made the longest flight of any Scottish aircraft or pilot to that date, and followed this on 30 January 1911 with a flight reaching a height of 200ft, but damaged the machine on landing. For these flights the J.R.K. Law Prize of £50 was awarded by the Scottish Aeronautical Society. (14 January 1911. 600 yards at a height of 50ft: 30 January 1911 distance 1 mile, endurance 1 min 2 2/3 sec). The damaged machine was repaired and further flights were carried out at Cambussdrennie Farm, Blair Drummond on 16 August 1911 and 13 October 1911, but these were the last to be reported.

From this point, the brothers took separate, though very similar paths, with Frank joining the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., while Harold joined Vickers as a test pilot. It was not, however, the last of designs under their own name. In his spare moments from testing production Gunbuses Harold took it upon himself the task of designing and constructing a small high-speed scout without the knowledge or approval of his employers, "borrowing" a Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine from Vickers' stores to power the aircraft. Barnwell attempted a first flight of his design, nicknamed the 'Barnwell Bullet', in early 1915, but the aircraft crashed and was wrecked, possibly due to a miscalculated centre of gravity.

Frank Barnwells' last personal design had more tragic results. In 1938 he designed and built—privately, at his own expense, and helped by a few friends—the little low-wing single-seater BSW.1 monoplane of 750 lb all-up weight, with a 25 h.p. Scott Squirrel two-stroke engine. The designation BSW stood for Barnwell, the designer, Scott, the engine and Whitchurch, the aerodrome where Airwork Ltd constructed the machine. In it he made a satisfactory preliminary flight on 17 July. Minor adjustments were made to the controls and, in spite of endeavours to dissuade him, he took it up for the second time on 2 August 1938. As the aircraft began the first turn of a circuit, it stalled and spun in; he was killed instantly.

Company References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. British Light Aeroplanes, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (GMS Enterprises, 2000)
  3. Vickers Aircraft Since 1908, C.F. Andrews and E.B. Morgan (Putnam,1988)

Project Data top

Project No

Type No


Alternative Name(s)







   Glider No.1  1905  Proto 1 Biplane glider 1
   Glider No.2  1905  Proto 1 Biplane glider 1
   Biplane  1908  Pro(n) 1 1S, 1E pusher biplane 1,2
   Monoplane  1908  Pro(n) 1 1S, 1E tractor monoplane 1
   Biplane  1909  Proto 1 1S, 1E biplane 1,2
   Monoplane  1911  Proto 1 1S, 1E tractor monoplane 1,2,5
   Bullet  1917  Proto 1

 See Vickers ES.1

   BSW Mk.1  1938  Proto 1 1S, 1E monoplane 3,4

Project References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. British Aircraft 1809-1914, Peter Lewis (Putnam, 1962)
  3. British Light Aeroplanes, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (GMS Enterprises, 2000)
  4. Ultralights - The Early British Classics, Richard Riding (Patrick Stevens Ltd., 1987)
  5. Flight, 18 February 1911

Production Data top

BSW Mk.1 - One aircraft only : G-AFID, c/n 1. First flew 17 July 1938.

No other Barnwell aircraft recieved c/n or registration

   Total Barnwell Production     8   

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V1.3.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated February 2017