The 'Most Missed' Buildings in Elstree & Borehamwood, Part 3

Monday 1 August 2022

Here is the next on our list of the 'Most Missed' buildings in our area.  They are in no particular order, and we are adding them one by one, week by week, and would love to have your feedback on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. What are your memories? Which is your 'Most Missed'?  What iconic building have we forgotten? Let us know on

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Last week drew many comments on the unusual photo of the MGM Clock Tower. This week should draw out many memories :


Commissioned in 1927 by a 'Mrs Merrick', of which not much is known, it was opened in 1934 on the A1 or the Barnet By-Pass. In the style of an American 'roadhouse-motel' but with an English twist with its thatched roof, it was ideally suited for 'stars' from the flourishing studios nearby to take their companions. With a large dining area, chefs, a swimming pool, and other facilities located a short drive from the expensive areas of north London it became a well-known attraction.

It was bought by holiday camps’ founder Billy Butlin in 1939 as his first hotel but then during the Second World War, his business was requisitioned by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They turned the Barn into Station XV of the Inter Services Research Bureau and developed explosive devices, camouflage and coding equipment, using the local expertise found in the studios. It was run by film director and World War I RAF veteran Capt. J. Elder Wills,  By the end of the war, the building had fallen into disrepair and the owner went bankrupt.  But then, in the 1950s, the Ministry of Works used the Thatched Barn as its Building Research Station.

Restored to its original function in the 60s it was still attracting stars as well as locals to dances, swimming galas, etc. Unfortunately in 1962 it suffered the first of a series of fires which damaged the thatched roof for which it was famous. It then became a Playboy Club for a brief period in the Sixties but prohibitively high prices and an exclusive membership ensured its eventual failure.  The Thatched Barn was demolished in December 1989 to be replaced by the Holiday Inn which was built in style similar to the Barn. Now it's a Double Tree by Hilton Hotels and still in a prominent position for travellers.

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