The Shuttleworths were an influential family owning extensive lands in the North West. Several family members were awarded high offices; however one of the most noted Shuttleworths was Colonel Richard Shuttleworth (1587-1669). He was High Sheriff of Lancashire twice and a Member of Parliament for Preston and a commander in the Parliamentarian Army during the Civil Wars.
Following Colonel Richard’s death in the late 17th century it was 150 years before another Shuttleworth took up significant residence at Gawthorpe. In the meantime there were several occupants who looked after the estate, but little was done in the care of the house. Therefore, with the arrival at Gawthorpe of Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, Sir Charles Barry began the restoration and improvements to the house.
One of the most notable of Sir James’ acquaintances was the novelist Charlotte Bronte who was considered a family friend, and stayed as a guest at Gawthorpe in 1850 and again shortly before her death in 1855. She described the house as being, ‘grey, stately and picturesque’. It was through Sir James that Charlotte Brontë would meet her good friend Elizabeth Gaskell when both were his guests at a house in the Lake District.
Ughtred Shuttleworth (1844-1939) followed a parliamentary career sitting as a liberal MP for Hastings and then Clitheroe until his elevation to the peerage in 1902. For the 20 years between 1908-28 he was Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire and entertained King George V and Queen Mary at Gawthorpe in 1913.
After Charles, the 4th Lord Shuttleworth (1917-75) moved to Leck Hall, Near Kirkby Lonsdale. In 1952 Gawthorpe was left in the care of his aunt Rachel (1886-1967) who had lived most of her life at Gawthorpe. Rachel was, like her grandfather, prodigiously active in social welfare work in Lancashire however this aspect of her life is overshadowed by her work as a collector and teacher of embroidery, textiles and costume.