The Thatched Barn was a two-storey mock-Tudor hotel built in the 1930s on the Barnet by-pass in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England. It was bought by holiday camp founder, Billy Butlin, before being requisitioned as Station XV by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in World War Two, and used to train spies. In the 1960s, it became a Playboy Club, and later it became associated with Elstree Film Studios, and was used as a location for TV series The Saint, and later The Prisoner. The original building was demolished at the end of the 1980s, and replaced by a modern hotel, now the Holiday Inn Elstree.
1930s: Roadhouse to the stars
1940s: SOE Station XV
In June 1942, the Special Operations Executive moved its Camouflage Section and main workshops to the Thatched Barn, developing a research facility to create camouflage, explosive devices, and coding equipment. Station XV was run by film director and World War I RAF veteran Capt. J. Elder Wills, who recruited stage prop experts and even magicians; British stage magician Jasper Maskelyne was associated with the Station.
1950s: Building Research centre
In the 1950s, the Ministry of Works used the Thatched Barn as its Building Research Station, for example, to test concrete.
1960s-1970s: Association with Elstree Studios
As an expensive hotel close to Elstree Film Studios, the Thatched Barn was used by film stars and film makers. Director Michael Winner says that, during the days before it was possible to telephone America directly from outside London, he would drive to the Thatched Barn to make transatlantic telephone calls in order to cast his film Chato's Land (1972).
Film stars known to have visited the hotel include:
- Tommy Norton (9 December 2005), Playboy girls to rat bombs, Borehamwood Times, retrieved 3 November 2007
- Fredric Boyce, Douglas Everett, SOE: the Scientific Secrets (2003) 288 pages, Sutton Publishing Ltd; New Ed edition (9 December 2004), ISBN 0-7509-4005-0 (page 22).
- Unmutual Prisoner Locations Guide. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
- Mark Seaman, Secret Agent's Handbook, (2001) 272 pages, The Lyons Press; ISBN 1-58574-286-4 (Introduction)
- William Stevenson, Spymistress: The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II, (2007) Arcade Publishing, 384 pages, ISBN 1-55970-763-1 (Page 166)
- William Stevenson, Spymistress: The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II, (2007) Arcade Publishing, 384 pages, ISBN 1-55970-763-1 (268). The Victoria and Albert Museum has on display a handkerchief containing secret codes that can be read with an ultraviolet light, that was made at the Thatched Barn
- J. Elder Wills at the IMDB
- Fredric Boyce, Douglas Everett, SOE: the Scientific Secrets (2003) 288 pages, Sutton Publishing Ltd; New Ed edition (9 Dec 2004), ISBN 0-7509-4005-0 (page 272)
- See also "Japer Maskelyne Master of Make-Believe" (retrieved 13 August 2007)
- R. J. M. Sutherland, Dawn Humm, Mike Chrimes, Historic Concrete: Background to Appraisal, (2001) Thomas Telford, 384 pages, ISBN 0-7277-2005-8 (page 196)
- Michael Winner, Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts 2004, Robson, 368 pages, ISBN 1-86105-734-2 (page 171)
- Roy Moseley, Bette Davis, (2003) University Press of Kentucky, 216 pages, ISBN 0-8131-9037-1. (Page 29)