This week I pay tribute to the wonderful ATV Studios that existed in Borehamwood from 1960 to 1983. Before that it was a film studio dating back to 1914 and today is the BBC Elstree Centre. Hence it has been a production centre for over 100 years.

It was set up by the one and only Lew Grade, who when made a Lord took the title Baron of Elstree. I had the pleasure to meet him a couple of times and he was certainly the last of the old-time television and film moguls who made deals with a simple handshake. Today they rely on committees and we all know the camel is a horse designed by that process.

I first visited ATV in the 1960s to watch recordings of such shows as George And The Dragon, starring Sid James and Peggy Mount. Sadly I never met Sid but decades later invited Peggy back to one of my events at the studio. I have lost track of the number of programmes I saw recorded as part of the studio audience. I do remember a New Faces final with Victoria Wood and Lennie Henry, Frankie Howerd dying a death as a guest on some variety show and Family Fortunes with Max Bygraves. On one occasion a contestant froze and answered every question with the words "a chicken", including what would you take to the beach. Another episode was never screened as the contestant answered "a condom" when asked to name something made of rubber. Those were more innocent times.

Bob Monkhouse hosted The Golden Shot and later Celebrity Squares. I must admit Bob was a bit like Marmite but I really admired his talent. That latter show gave me the opportunity to interview stars of yesteryear in their dressing rooms while waiting to appear for I think a fee of £200 each. They included such names as Arthur Askey, who was a lovely chap, and Margaret Lockwood, who told me she had her eyebrows shaved off at Elstree Studios for a screen test in the 1930s and they never grew back.

Then there was the chance to say hello to David McCullum, who was starring in Sapphire And Steel, interviewing Simon Ward in the bar and a pint with the great character actor Bernard Lee, best remembered as M in the early Bond films. I recall meeting a young Michael Kitchen, who decades later has his own hit series Foyle's War, and attending the press launch for the Muppet Show.

Back in the 1960s the studio produced Emergency Ward 10, which ran for 10 years. In those days they were only allowed to have five patients die each season. I visited its replacement in the 1970s called General Hospital and three years ago visited the set of Holby City shooting on the same site albeit using former offices in the 1960s office block.

So many famous names worked at the Studio from Bob Hope to John Wayne and Julie Andrews to Barbara Striesand. ATV, later called Central, was forced to move to Birmingham and the studio closed. Luckily the BBC were looking for a new facility with a backlot for their new soap opera EastEnders and bought the site. I salute the output of ATV and the huge legacy it has left to television history and lament the passing of that era.

Until next time, enjoy your new freedom but still take care.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios