Sunday, 17 May 2015

Elstree studios are not in Elstree

Having a spare hour on my hands whilst in the region of Watford, Herts, I decided to visit Elstree to see what I could find of the famous studios. Many of the films I had seen as a child had announced on the final frame that they had been filmed at Elstree Studios and as a college student, helping the van salesman of Brazil's Sausages & Pies, I had carried boxes into the canteen at one of the studios but such was the pressure of work at the time that I was never really sure of where I was geographically. 
MGM Studios, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

I suppose that it should have come as no surprise to me to learn that Elstree studios are not in Elstree; they are in the neighbouring town of Borehamwood and always have been.

Gate Studios, Station Road, Borehamwood.

And it was not just one studio.

From the arrival of the first cinematographic company in Borehamwood in 1914, looking for cheap land, clean air and easy access to London, at least six film studios established themselves in the town.

British International Studios, Borehamwood.
Famous film stars of the eras purchased houses in the town and frequented the pubs. The films made here were world famous.  In the 1980s, six of the top ten box office grossing films had been made in Borehamwood. Do you remember: 
Ice Cold in Alex, 
The Dambusters
2001 A Space Odyssey
Star Wars
Summer Holiday
The Railway Children and The Go Between?

The Dambusters –made in Borehamwood.
When film gave way to television, many studios closed, others turned to the new medium and the tradition was continued with TV series such as, The Prisoner, The Avengers and The Saint, Top of the Pops and latterly, Eastenders.
The Big Brother house is actually built on top of the water tank set that was used for The Dambusters. What a pity that they did not leave a bomb behind...

The present Elstree Studios are now 
owned by the local council and leased to television companies, but they are still in Borehamwood. 

Go to Borehamwood, start at the railway station where you will see this striking bas-relief, and follow the cinema trail through the town.

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