Object of the Week : T is for Thatched Barn

Monday 28 September 2020

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week : T is for Thatched Barn

The Museum has a large collection of photos of the Thatched Barn, now the Holiday Inn on the Barnet By-Pass.  This building has had a colourful past and our archive photo collections reflect this.  There have been parties, summertime gatherings around the former heated swimming pool, car accidents in the 1930s, secret wartime activities and fires in the 1960s. Here are some unseen photos from the opening night collection in 1934.

The hotel had elaborate dining facilities and being so close to the film studios, it became a glamorous hang-out for the film stars of the 1930s.  It was bought by holiday camps’ founder Billy Butlin in 1939 but then during the Second World War, the building was requisitioned by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who developed explosive devices, camouflage and coding equipment, using the local expertise found in the studios. 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.

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.

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