History of The Battle Axes and the Aldenham House Estate
The Battle Axes pub’s history is intertwined with that of the Aldenham House Estate, and can be traced back to 1840, when it was known as The Wrestlers. The estate was one of the broadest in Hertfordshire, stretching all the way from Aldenham Village, past where Elstree Aerodrome now stands, and beyond to the Aldenham reservoir.
The landowner at the time was Henry Hucks Gibbs, the 1st Baron of Aldenham. Mr Gibbs was an ambitious and successful man. He made his fortune trading guano, a type of fertilizer, during the middle part of 19th century. Then in 1853 he was appointed Director of the Bank of England, a position he held until 1901. He also enjoyed a year long stint as Conservative MP for the City of London having been elected unopposed in the 1891 by-election.
The previous year he reorganised his estate, closing Elstree Road and Grubs Lane, and demolishing The Wrestlers, which stood on the junction of the two roads. In their place, he built two new roads, Butterfly Lane and Aldenham Road and, realising that the local farmhands and estate workers would want a place to drink at the end of a long day’s toil, he built The Battle Axes pub, naming it after the battleaxe on his coat of arms.
Mr Gibbs was a keen horticulturalist and over the course of the 20th century he imported a huge range of plants and trees from around the world, creating 400 acres of parkland and a 200-acre flower garden said to rival those at Kew.
Such lavish spending couldn’t last. Following the introduction of death duties, the Gibbs family found themselves in increasing financial difficulties and the estate was gradually sold off. Aldenham House was turned into a country club frequented by affluent actors from the nearby Elstree Film Studios. It was acquired by the BBC for use as an overseas broadcasting station during the war, and then remained empty before being acquired by Haberdashers' Aske's School for Boys.
The school stands on what would have been the junction of Old Elstree Road and Old Grubs Lane, and its car park is thought to be the site of the old Wrestlers Inn.
Elstree and Borehamwood
The villages of Elstree and Borehamwood date back to Roman times. Indeed Watling Street, which runs from the affluent village of Radlett to the north, through Elstree and south towards the M1 motorway, once led to the Roman settlement of Sulloniacae at Brockley Hill.
During the late 1940s excavations took place at Brockley Hill, and a Roman tile kiln was unearthed, as well as pottery dating back to the first and second century.
There are several notable buildings in Elstree, including the picturesque St Nicholas Church, which dates back to 1424; Shopwick Place, a majestic Grade II listed house first constructed in the early 1700s; and the East Restaurant, built c.1830 when it was known as the Plough public house.
Borehamwood, which is a short ten-minute drive from The Battle Axes pub, can be traced back to Victorian times. In those days it was little more than a few houses on Theobold Street, flanked on either by a number of farms.
Today it is perhaps most famous for Elstree Film Studios. Established in 1926, it has produced popular feature films including The King’s Speech, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Jack the Giant Killer.
Whether you are visiting Elstree, Borehamwood, or the treasures of historic Hertfordshire, you can be confident you will find a warm welcome and a delicious meal The Battle Axes pub.
Directions to The Battle Axes
You can find The Battle Axes on Butterfly Lane in Elstree, Hertfordshire. Simply key WD6 3AG into your satnav.