Take one last look. From next week, the Gate Studios will disappear, never again being the first thing people see on arriving in Elstree and Borehamwood by train.

As this newspaper went to press, all that remained of the historic film studios was the towering front panel, which is expected to be felled by Monday.

Despite a public campaign to save the building, which was first built to make silent movies in 1928, the Government refused to grant it listed status, meaning no community group or council could afford to compete with a developer to buy the land.

Developers Taylor Woodrow are preparing to build 133 homes on the site.

Film historian Paul Welsh, who was prominent in the campaign to save the 1,000 square-metre building, said seeing the studios go was like losing an old friend'.

"It's part of the film heritage of our town and it's a great shame that we couldn't utilise it as a film museum," he said.

"It may not be the most attractive building or have produced the most famous films, but it was the first studio people saw as they entered Elstree. And that itself is a slight tragedy."

For the most part of its life, from the 1950s until 2003, the building was home to Harkness Screens where hundreds of people worked on making cinema screens, including the world's largest fixed screen measuring a whopping 122 by 96 ft, which is now in Sydney, Australia.

John Lawton worked at Harkness for 40 years from 1959 to 1999, spending the last eight years as managing director.

He said: "I haven't been to see it being demolished because it will be very sad to see it disappear. As a screen factory, it was world-class. "And as a studio it was a bit unusual it was one of the few studios with double doors both ends. It was pretty impressive."

Perhaps the most famous film made there was Odette in 1949, starring Elstree actress Dame Anna Neagle, Trevor Howard and Sir Peter Ustinov.

Mr Welsh, who is also entertainments officer for Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council, hopes to install a plaque somewhere prominent at the new housing estate, because another plaque dedicated to the studios in 1996 has been stolen.

"We are a film town and we are losing buildings connected with that and it's a great shame. You can't recapture that.

"I get the feeling, in years to come, someone's going to say why didn't you do something to save it'?"