Shepperton Studios was built on the grounds of Littleton Park, which was built in the 17th century by local nobleman Thomas Wood. The old mansion still stands on the site.
Scottish businessman Norman Loudon purchased Littleton Park in 1931 for use by his new film company, Sound Film Producing & Recording Studios; the facility opened in 1932. The studios, which produced both short and feature films, quickly became successful and expanded rapidly. Proximity to the Vickers-Armstrongs aircraft factory at Brooklands, which attracted German bombers, disrupted filming during the Second World War, as did the requisitioning of the studios in 1941 by the government, who first used it for sugar storage and later to create decoy aircraft and munitions for positioning in the Middle East. The Ministry of Aircraft Production also took over part of the studios for the production of Vickers Wellington bomber components early in the war.
After re-opening in 1945, the studios changed hands. When Sir Alexander Korda purchased British Lion Films, he also acquired a controlling interest in Sound City and Shepperton Studios. Among the films in which he was involved during this period were The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949) which was shot both at the studios and on location and has been referred to as the best British film noir.
In spite of such successes, British Lion ran into financial difficulties in the 1950s when it was unable to repay a 1949 loan from the National Film Finance Corporation and went into receivership on 1 July 1954. In January 1955, a new company, British Lion Films Ltd, was formed and Roy and John Boulting took over at Shepperton Studios. Their comedies, such as I'm All Right Jack (1959), were produced there, as were dramas from other film-makers such as J. Lee Thompson's The Guns of Navarone (1961). The studio's other projects from the same decade include Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove (1964) and the musical Oliver! (1968), which won the Sound Department's Academy Award.
Despite the financial ups and downs of British Lion and the changing of hands, the studios remained active until the early 1970s. In 1969, the studios produced 27 films; by 1971 this number had fallen to seven. Production throughout the 1970s was erratic, reaching a low of two films by 1979. Among the problems faced by Shepperton Studios during this time was the desire of new British Lion director John Bentley to sell the grounds for housing, since re-purposing the land would have nearly doubled its value. A compromise was proposed, and in 1973 the area of the studios was reduced from 60 acres (240,000 m2) to 20 acres (81,000 m2).