I have been asked a number of times what has been my favourite experience during all my decades around showbiz. How can you answer that? It is like comparing apples and pairs. Was interviewing David Niven more fun than meeting George Lucas on the set of Star Wars? My trips to Hollywood or visiting some wonderful sets at Elstree Studios. The reality is I had a wonderful time and so many happy memories.

However, I can confess perhaps one stands out as it was an unique experience. It happened 50 years ago as I have been around a long time. The wonderful MGM British Studios that stood in Elstree Way, spanning about 115 acres had closed its doors for the last time. It was the victim in the decline of cinemagoing and the accounts of the parent company in America awash in red ink.

Many veterans believe MGM in Borehamwood was the finest studio in Europe during its day. It was originally built before the Second World War and called Amalgamated Studios. During the war years it became home to all the Government files from Whitehall - about 900 lorry loads of documents. Then later it was used to manufacture much-needed aircraft parts.

In 1944 MGM purchased the original buildings and added another 80 acres of surrounding farm land including the farm itself. This area is now known as the Studio Estate. It includes many roads and other buildings such as a Toby Carvery and the college. Houses were constructed from the mid 1970s and I had the pleasant task of suggesting all the names for the roads, based on a film theme.

The stars who worked on the sound stages in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were legendary names, from Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Orson Welles to Liz Taylor, Ingrid Bergman and Ava Gardner. And we must not forget an army of home-grown talent such as Peter Sellers, Terry Thomas, Maggie Smith, Robert Donat and Richard Burton.

Think of some of the great movies shot at MGM. War films like 633 Squadron, Where Eagles Dare or The Dirty Dozen. Costume dramas like Ivanhoe, for which they built a castle to low budget classics like Village Of The Damned, which used nearby Letchmore Heath.

Of course we cannot forget the Kubrick masterpiece 2001 or classic television series such as The Prisoner and UFO.

All those years ago I was given the keys to the now deserted studio and three days to explore. I salvaged some files and photos and have spent the last half century interviewing the stars and staff who worked there . The end result is my new book MGM British Studios Hollywood In Hertfordshire. It is packed full of tales from those people, details of the productions made there and about 400 photos and illustrations. It is a heavy hardback and by choice a very limited first run. I know it is heavy as I dropped my copy on my toe and now walk with a limp. I am not taking a penny as all proceeds go to our great museum and the volunteer group Elstree Screen Heritage, of which I am chairman. It is currently only available from our website for Elstree Screen Heritage at only £20 plus postage. It will make an excellent birthday present or a door stopper with style.

I want the memory of that great studio to live on and for those memories to be shared. Let the lion roar once again!

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