Welcome to the Elstree & Borehamwood Museum blog.
This blog is about all those happenings inside and outside the Museum that have caught our attention.
From events and exhibitions, to new discoveries in the collections, to news and views.
Any comments and items to go here please contact Simon on firstname.lastname@example.org
We are continuing our list of some of the 'Most Missed' buildings in our area, 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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We had some great comments about the Village Hall last week, and expect even more with this week's :
THE MGM CLOCK TOWER
In 1935 Amalgamated Studios started building a large studio complex on the north side of Elstree Way, including the much loved art deco tower which became a symbol of Borehamwood and its studios. Amalgamated was unable to find work to fill its new studios and in 1939 they sold out to J Arthur Rank who leased it to the Ministry of Works during the Second World War for storage. In 1944 the UK subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM-London, who had been using Denham Studios pre-war, purchased the site and renamed itself as MGM British Studios Ltd.
After the War MGM increased the site to 7 sound stages and went into full production and many 'classic' films and TV series were made in Borehamwood. Films included Ivanhoe (1952), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). The castle built as a set for Ivanhoe could be seen when driving into Borehamwood and was often mistaken for a genuine historical monument. The mound where the castle was built, is now part of the Film and Heritage Trail which runs through the Studio Way estate. The TV series The Prisoner was made here in the Sixties, and still attracts a loyal following. One of the final films to be made was 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1968) which may well have led to the closure of the studios, but has had a lasting effect in popular culture.
So in 1970, the Studios closed and in the early hours of May 1973, a fire swept through the site, damaging a number of buildings being demolished in preparation for use as a cold store by Christian Salvesen. During 1973, a film crew for the production Holiday On The Buses filmed some of the demolition work as part of the climax of the film.
In 1987, despite local campaigns and protests, the iconic Clock Tower was demolished when Christian Salvesen finished operations at the former studio. Unfortunately none of the buildings were listed and the site was cleared for industrial purposes. The former library and leisure centre were built on an adjacent site and the backlot became the Studio Way estate. According to former Museum Curator, Alan Lawrence, only a few bricks remain from the original wall alongside the road, marking where the Studios once stood.
The first photo is an unusual shot of the Tower and the offices in its early days before MGM bought the studios, but surrounded by executive cars of the day. We have no date for this shot, so if you can help us and identify the cars, then please let us know.
The second is a snowy day in the 1960s, the third is a frontal shot, and the fourth an aerial photo showing the Tower's location in the MGM complex itself. As an added bonus, here's a still from Ivanhoe as the 'castle' is besieged.
A book about the history of MGM has been written by local historian Paul Welsh and can be purchased from the Museum and this website.
The Museum's contribution to the 2022 Flower Festival for the Civic Fortnight in All Saint's Church features red and white roses and our now 'famous' tube train photo. There are 16 local organisations with flower arrangements on the theme of the Jubilee filling the church, so make sure you visit on this Saturday and Monday 20th from 11am to 1pm. You might find some tea and cake as well!
After three very successful visits from Years 1, 2 and 6 of Summerswood in early June, we received many hand drawn and written 'Thank Yous' from the pupils. It's great to know they enjoyed their sessions with the old toys we showed them, and the model of The Line That Never Was that stretches down the Museum. Here's just a very small selection of their letters.
Cllr Farida Turner, Cllr John Graham, Dave Armitage - Museum Manager
We had a visit and a few drinks with an after hours viewing of our Off The Rails Exhibition this week. Hertsmere Deputy Mayor Cllr John Graham, Cllr Farida Turner and Cllr Meenal Sachdev had a good look round and admired our fantastic model and displays. With over 800 visitors in the few weeks since we re-opened in January, we can safely say this Exhibition is a hit! We can't wait to show you round.
Model builder Tony de Swarte shows Cllr John Graham
the model Cllr Meenal Sachdev sees a Routemaster
Our first ever blog post in May 2015 was a big thank you to David Lally for his extremely generous donation to the Museum. And now he has surpassed himself and donated £750 to us this week. Once again we thank you David, and hope to see you in the Museum again! Our photo shows Museum Manager, Dave Armitage, accepting the cheque.
At long last Spring is here! This is our entry for the Borehamwood Spring Photos you will see around town. Nice!
This year our annual Flower Festival is being held ‘virtually’ – you can see photos of the flower displays at various sites around the town. Please see the poster above for the locations.
The theme this year is films made in Borehamwood and the Museum’s contribution is based around a little–known Peter Sellers film ‘Mr.Topaze’ shot at MGM in 1961. (It’s little-known because Sellers had all the prints destroyed after its critical and public failure).
Dave Armitage waiting for the first volunteer!
On Monday 27th January Hertsmere held a Volunteering Exhibition at which all the local charities prepared stalls to advertise their organisations and try to attract new volunteers. In the rear hall of 96 Shenley Road the Museum valiantly displayed our recent activities for the last year hoping to gain a few new helpers. Unfortunately the flow-through of interested viewers was rather slow. But if you’d like to volunteer with us all please contact us anyway you can – it is good fun!
The first of this year’s regular coffee mornings, organised by Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council was held today in All Saints Church in Shenley Road. With free refreshments and an Exhibition of community organisations presenting 2019 A Year in Photographs. The Museum’s stand was right by the door and our excellent volunteers Helen And Elaine were there to greet everyone who walked in. And what a busy year we’ve had, from two Exhibitions, Families Day and History Walk, Friends Evenings and school visits. 2020 is shaping up to be busier…
Last week the Friends of the Museum held a special Evening to celebrate our current Exhibition, Holby City At 20. Joining us for a talk and questions was the chief medical adviser to the programme, Dr Shyam Kolvekar. His main ‘job’ is being the Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at St Barts Hospital, but he has been the Holby adviser since the show began, making sure that all the medical terms and scenarios are exactly correct. He has also worked on medical documentaries and wherever his expertise is called for. A fascinating evening for lovers of drama and surgery!