Elstree & Borehamwood railway station is on the Thameslink Line between London St Pancras and Bedford. It was built by the Midland Railway in 1868, and is located just north of the 1,072 yard long Elstree Tunnels.
The area of Borehamwood to the west of the railway line, formally Deacon's Hill, is colloquially called Elstree even though it is not contiguous with the village. Elstree South tube station was due to be an extension of the Northern line, planned in the 1930s, but never completed.
The old A5 road (Watling Street) goes through Elstree village, where it is designated as the A5183 road. Through the village, the road is called (from south to north) Elstree Hill South, High Street and Elstree Hill North. The 18th century Grade II listed building, Elstree Hill House, is still on Elstree Hill South, and used to be the home of the old Elstree School (see Schools). In the early 1900s, it was noted that:
".. the hill roads are remarkably direct and seldom curve to avoid the steep pitch, and it has been suggested that the roads were originally slides for the timber which used to be sent to London for fuel."
Elstree Aerodrome is licensed by the CAA and has a 2,150-foot (717 yd; 655 m) paved runway, suitable most for light aircraft and turbine powered G A aircraft. It also is one of the main helicopter centres for North London and is extending its provision in this area. In the early 1930s it was a grass landing strip for the local Aldenham House country club. A concrete runway was put down during World War II, and Wellington Bombers were modified here.
On 29 November 1975, retired F1 race car driver and Embassy Hill car owner Graham Hill and his racing driver Tony Brise were piloting a twin-engine six-seat Piper PA-23-250 Aztec (N6645Y) from France to London with four additional team members aboard. All six were killed when it crashed and burned in heavy fog on Arkley Golf Course, 3 miles (5 km) short of the runway.
London Transport's Aldenham Works was sited on the edge of Elstree close to the A41; it was opened in 1956, closed in 1986, and demolished in 1996. It is now a large business park.
Originally a 19th-century steam ship owned by the Houlder Brothers, the town also lends its name to a series of ships called the Elstree Grange (rebuilt 1916, 1944, 1979), at one time sunk during the Second World War.
Elstree is home to a number of Grade II listed buildings, including some at Grade II* (particularly important buildings), such as:Holly Bush public house (15th century)
Aldenham House and stable block (c.1672)
The Leys, built in 1901 by Scottish architect and designer, George Henry Walton.
Laura Ashley The Manor Hotel, formerly known as the Edgwarebury Hotel, is located on Barnet Lane, and operated by Corus Hotels. The Tudor-style building dates back to 1540, was converted into a hotel in the 1960s, and has featured in many TV and film productions, such as the 1968 Hammer Horror classic, The Devil Rides Out. Notable guests have included Peter Sellers, Tom Cruise, John Cleese and Stanley Kubrick. It was the country home of armaments manufacturer and First Baronet Sir (Arthur) Trevor Dawson, (1866–1931).
A house in Elstree designed by architect Edward John May (1853–1941) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887. St Nicholas Parish Church was designed by English architect Philip Charles Hardwick.
Elstree is home to Aldenham School, and Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, both independent public schools (ie. fee-paying), Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, and St Nicholas Church of England V.A Primary School.
Since the 1780s, a private school has been located in Elstree.
Elstree School, a boys' preparatory school, was located in Elstree from 1848 until 1938 before moving to Woolhampton, Berkshire before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Hillside School was located in Elstree between 1874 and 1886, before eventually becoming Dorset House School in 1905, (not to be confused with Hillside School in nearby Borehamwood.)
Elstree Cricket Club was formed in 1878, but no longer play in the Herts Saracens League. 18-hole Radlett Park Golf Club was founded in 1984, having recently being renamed from Elstree Golf & Country Club. It is closer to Elstree than Radlett.
Hatch End Cricket Club also play in Elstree. They participate in the Herts Saracens League.
Section 15 of the London Outer Orbital Path (London Loop) goes through Elstree, before continuing as Section 16, a 10-mile (16 km) walk from Elstree to Cockfosters.
Bush, Alba and Cyber-Duck are based in Elstree. There is a local doctor's practice called Shopwick Surgery. There is one convenience store, pubs and a restaurant. A liberal synagogue and the newly built shteibel are off Elstree Hill.
Elstree was home to Ohr Yisrael Synagogue, a warm and friendly Orthodox synagogue with affiliation to the Federation of Synagogues. However, the synagogue's present location is just within Borehamwood.
Aldenham Country Park is both a recreational facility and a breeding centre for rare livestock. Section 15 of the London Loop walk passes by. In 1873 nearby Tykes Water stream was dammed in order to create Tykes Water lake. Tykes Water Bridge features in the open credits to the Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee film, Dracula A.D. 1972, and used in several episodes of the Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson seasons of The Avengers, including the final Thorson opening titles.
The dam was built in 1795 by French prisoners of war. English watercolour landscape painter John Hassell writes:
"At the top of Stanmore Hill we enter on Bushy Heath, and at some distance on the right in the valley catch a view of the celebrated reservoir, the property of the Grand Junction Company, on Aidenham Common, at the foot of the village of Elstree. This noble sheet of water occupies a space of considerable extent on the verge of Aidenham Common, which thirty years ago was a barren waste; here the improvements in agriculture are indeed conspicuous, for at this place a poor, sandy, meagre, wretched soil has now by good husbandry been converted into rich pasturage.
"The reservoir has all the appearance of a lake; and when the timber that surrounds it shall have arrived at maturity, it will be a most delightful spot. From this immense sbeet of water, in event of drought or a deficiency of upland waters, the lower parts of the Grand Junction and the Paddington Canals can have an immediate supply. The feeder from this reservoir enters the main stream near Rickmansworth, above Batchworth Mills, and supplies the millers' below with 300 locks of water, to whose interest the Duke of Northumberland is a perpetual trustee."
In 1886, the Photographic Society of Great Britain featured an exhibition of photos of Elstree Reservoir by Edgar Clifton. During World War I, then Major Keith Caldwell with No. 74 Squadron RAF, used Elstree Reservoir for target practice. In 1918, one of the pilots accidentally killed a local resident when his machine gun misfired.
The name "Elstree" derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase "Tidwulf's Tree", which is mentioned as "Tidulfres treow" in an 11–12th-century manuscript of an A.D. 786 charter. It is thought that "the "T" being lost in the wrong division of 'aet Tidwulfes treo'" (meaning "at Tidwulf's Tree").
In 1723, topographer John Norden noted in his book Speculum Britanniae, that in the country of Hartfordshire (sic) was one "Elstre or Eglestre". In an earlier edition, he writes:
"ELSTREE n. 20. in OFFAES grant EAGLESTRE
: a place wherit may be thought Eagles bredd in time past, for though it be nowe hilly and heathy – it hath beene replenished with stately trees, fit for such fowle to breede and harbour in. It is parcell of the libertie of S. Albans
Nemus aquilinum is the Latin for "grove of eagles".
Robinson Crusoe author, Daniel Defoe wrote in his 1748 travel guide that:
"Idlestrey or Elstre, is a Village on the Roman Watling-street, on the very Edge of Middlesex; but it is chiefly noted for its Situation, near Brockly-hill, by Stanmore, which affords a lovely View cross Middlesex, over the Thames, into Surry."
In 1811, topographer Daniel Lysons writes:
"The name of this place has been variously written; — Eaglestree, Elstree, Ilstrye, Idlestrye, etc. Norden says that it is called, in Offa's grant to the Abbey of St. Alban's, Eaglestree, that is, says he, "Nemus aquilinum
, a 'place where it may be thought that eagles bred in time past'." It has been derived also from Idel-street, i.e. the noble road; and Ill-street, the decayed road. May it not have been, rather, a corruption of Eald-street, the old road, i.e. the ancient Watling-street, upon which it is situated?"
In the 5th century, British warlord Vortigern and his two sons, Vortimer and Catigern, took part in the Battle of Elstree, then called the Battle of Ailestreu, where the Saxon Horsa was killed. It's possible there is confusion with the Battle of Aylesbury. George Moberly writes:
"Nennius, M.H.B. p. 69, calls the place of battle where Hors fell Episford; Britannicè 'Sathenegabail' = the Saxon battle. The Saxon Chronicle, ad a. 455, calls it Ægæles-threp, and Henry of Huntingdon, M.H.B. p. 708, Ailestreu. This would naturally be Elstree, of which name there is a place in Herts; but Beda's description of its situation has caused it rather to be referred to Aylesford in Kent, near which is a small village called Horsted."
The Manor of Elstree was formerly included in the Manor of Parkbury, and belonged to the Abbey of St. Albans. On the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was granted by Henry VIII, to Anthony Denny (1501–1549).
In 1607, Anthony Denny's grandson Edward Denny sold part of the estate, with all manorial rights, to Robert Briscoe, who sold it the same year to Sir Baptist Hicks. Part of the estate became the Manor of Boreham, and was sold to Edward Beauchamp. It remained with the Beauchamp-Proctor family until 1748, when it was sold to James West, M.P. for St. Albans, who, in or about 1751, alienated it to a Mr Gulston of Widdial. Gulston then sold it to a Mr Pigfatt, a gunsmith, who, within a few years, conveyed it to Thomas Jemmet. In 1774 it was purchased from Mr Jemmet by the late George Byng, M.P. for Middlesex, who passed it on to his son, by which time the estate was called the Manor of Boreham.
In 1776, the House of Lords granted:
"An Act for dividing and closing the Common or Waste Ground, called Boreham Wood Common, in the Parish of Elstree otherwise Idletree, in the County of Hertford."
In 1796 topographer Daniel Lysons writes:
"The parish of Elstree contains about 3,000 acres of land, which is divided between arable and pasture nearly in an equal proportion. The soil is, for the most part, clay. Boreham Wood, a waste of nearly 700 acres, was inclosed about the year 1778, and is now in culture. This parish pays the sum of £151 11s 0d to the land-tax, which is raised by a rate of about 1s 9d in the pound".
In 1779, Martha Ray (c. 1742–1779), singer and mistress of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was buried in the parish church (illustrated, right) after she had been shot dead by the Rev. James Hackman, Rector of Wiveton in Norfolk.
In 1823 Elstree became notorious for the Elstree murder of William Weare, killed in Radlett and the body disposed of in a pond in Elstree by John Thurtell. The incident was recalled by Charles Dickens in his Weekly Journal. An inquest of the deceased was held on 31 October by county coroner Benjamin Rooke at the local Artichoke public house.
On 17 August 1882, Eliza Ebborn of Watford was murdered by 24-year-old shoemaker George Stratton, who was subsequently sentenced to death. She was buried at Elstree Parish Church.
Elstree used to be in the Hundred of Cashio, also known as the Liberty of St Albans.
From 1941 to 1974, Elstree Rural District was the local government area, before being abolished and merged with Hertsmere. On 20 March 1957, Armorial Bearings were granted. The arms and crest are described as follows:
The background of royal ermine, represents the royal visits to and associations with the district, principally the visit of Henry VIII and his court to Tyttenhanger in 1525 to avoid the "sweatinge sicknesse" and the visits of Charles II to Salisbury Hall in Shenley. The oak tree with the Saxon crown represents Saxon Elstree – "Tidwulf's tree" – around which the district has grown. The tree also represents Boreham Wood and the district's woodlands, the gold acorns symbolize growth and prosperity. The waves at the base represent the River Colne, Aldenham Reservoir and link with the waves in the arms of the Hertfordshire CC and the Greater London Council.The gold saltire on blue is from the arms of the Abbey of St. Albans, the manor of Elstree came into the possession of the Abbey in 1188, and Tyttenhanger in Ridge stands on the site of a former possession of the Abbey, and the whole area lies in the Liberty of St. Albans. The scallop shells, the badge of pilgrims, recalls their passage along Watling Street through Elstree to St. Albans.
The hart is from one of the supporters of the County Council arms, wearing a mural crown, symbol of civic government. The spool of film (unique in civic heraldry) recalls the industry which had made the name of Elstree and Boreham Wood so widely known in modern times.
The motto is taken from the wall of Shenley Cage, and also links with the County motto "Trust and fear not". "
Elstree And Boreham Wood History Society, (inc. Elstree and Borehamwood Museum)
Elstree, Borehamwood & Radlett mencap Society.
Elstree Golf & Country Club.