The Manor Studios

Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire

Shipton Manor was bought in 1970 by Richard Branson for £35,000,  with a part loan from his Aunt Joyce and a bank mortgage. Set in 35 acres of ground, with parts of the main house dating back to the 9th century, it provided a totally different environment to record in from the inner city studios. The studio was built in the stable block to the side of the house that originally housed a squash court. The control room was set up on a balcony reached by a set of steep dimly lit stairs with a small outside window providing natural daylight. There was very little studio design to the first incarnation but by the end of 1971 in was a functioning recording studio of sorts.


The Stable Block


Inside the stable block showing the balcony control room.

The studio opened on 3rd Nov. 1971 with the first recordings being of The Bonzo Dog Band album, 'Lets Make up and be Friendly' followed by John Cales 'The Academy in Peril'. They couldn't actually get planning permission to run the studio at night due to objections from the neighbours and the police were actually called out on a number of occasions when sessions did continue late. A guard would be posted at the gate and would press an alarm button to alert the studio. 'By the time the police arrived, everyone was in the kitchen drinking coffee! After a while the police got fed up and didn't bother any more!'

The original studio desk was made by Walsall timing developments, (who became Audio Developments and Rebis) a 20 into 16 which fed a 16 track Ampex 1000.

In 1972 Richard Branson and Tom Newman signed musician Mike Oldfield to the newly formed Virgin Records label. He had recorded demos of his instrumental concept album the previous year at Abbey Road but the general consensus from the record industry was that an instrumental 'rock' album of tracks lasting 25 minutes would not be a commercial viability. Oldfield took up residence in The Manor in September 1972 and worked on the album with Tom Newman till Spring 1973 using studio down time and night sessions.

Tubular Bells

The American Arthur Crane


"...on the Pye Studios page, taken in control room 2 in 1967, there are two Belcaman C-102 compressors (with red panels) on top of the console. These were bought by The Manor in 1972, and one of them was used for the classic sound of the bells on Tubular Bells" .   Philip Newell.


The album would go on to sell 15 million copies, topping the charts in 17 countries including Britain and America. This would provide the finance for the expansion of the Virgin empire.

In 1973 Virgin bought the Pye mobile as second unit with a Neve Series 80 desk. This was later stripped and the gear set up in Mike Oldfield's house to record the album Ommadawn.

In 1975 it was decided to totally rebuild and re-equip the studio bringing in Westlake Audio for the design and a new 32 into 24 console was ordered from Helios.The wraparound Helios console frame also housed four Kepexes, two DBX companders, two UA compressors, two Teletronix LA3a, four A&D F760s,an Eventide Phaser Little Dipper notch filter and two Neve compressors.


The Studio reopened  in 1975. Manor Studios

The new Helios cost £50,000 and had the wrap around style to meet the symmetrical requirement of the Westlake room. It was a 32 into 24, with 4 band eq (with variable Q). The new studio also had 2 EMT plates, 2 Master Room reverbs and all Ampex tape machines.


Helios - for sale

Ampex tape machine

Helios for sale

In Febuary 1982 an SSL 4000  E series 40 input console was installed and the Helios sold.

 In 1992 Virgin Records, including the studios were sold to Thorn-EMI. In 1995 the studios were closed for good by EMI and The Manor sold for £750,000 supposedly to the Marquess of Headfort.

The barn which used to house the recording studio has been converted into a billiards room and a games room so it went full circle.

Manor Studios - Control Room


And in 2010 the house comes back onto the market.

Classical Manor a stone's throw from Oxford -  August  2010

Offers in excess of GBP £5,750,000

An historic Grade II listed manor house set on the edge of a village close to Oxford, providing well laid out, balanced, practical and light accommodation, rarely seen in a period house of this nature. Overlooking a lake and parkland.


Listed Grade II and built of local stone under a stone tile roof the property sits overlooking its lawned gardens with lovely mature trees and lake. The well proportioned accommodation is arranged principally over 2 floors, with a lovely range of reception rooms and excellent bedrooms, ideal for both family life and entertaining. The property is well presented with an array of period features, such as cornicing, polished stone and wooden floors, and a number of decorative stone fireplaces. A particular feature is the magnificent barn, situated beside the house. This gives great scope for further entertaining space, use as a home office or a children's games room.

8 bedrooms
4 reception rooms
5 bathrooms
858.36 sqm
Secondary accommodation
Swimming Pool
Tennis Court
26.00 acres (10.5 hectares)




The Manor Studios

Shipton Manor - 2011


Manor Studio


The Manor Studios



Manor Studios - Helios desk



Mundy Ellis

Mundy Ellis

Manor Studios


The Manor  - 2010

manor studios

The Lake

Manor studios

The Barn

Manor studios

The Gates

Manor Studios

The Gardens