This week I move away from sound stages to recall some of the exterior sets built on the backlots of the studios situated in Borehamwood. They have been constructed since the earliest days of movie production in the town. The reason was it was easier for a film unit to shoot inside the grounds of a studio than travel to a location, with all the hassle that could involve.

One of the first was a castle built on the backlot at Elstree Studios in the early 1930s for a film starring that queen of scream Fay Wray, best remembered for King Kong. Now that was a doomed romance if ever there was one. I cannot recall another castle on the backlot until the 1980s when director Ron Howard had one created for his film Willow, starring Val Kilmer.

The three best backlot sets at Elstree I can personally recall involved recreating buildings, but with very different plot lines. There was a marvellous street set of the Victorian era created for Young Sherlock Holmes, and before it was destroyed the producers of a Michael Caine film used it to save money going on location for the scenes required.

Then there was a great recreation of wartime Hanover Street built for the film of that name starring a young Harrison Ford. I remember freezing to death watching a night-time shoot where the street is bombed during the Blitz, including a burning double decker bus and collapsing buildings. It was very spectacular, which is more than could be said for the film.

I guess the best was probably the hotel exterior and the maze built for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which has become a cult classic but alas I find rather boring. I found the heroine so annoying that I wanted Jack Nicholson's character to kill her and found his character way over the top. The filming caused the studio problems when, as ever with Kubrick, it overran, a sound stage burned down and the fake snow clogged up the drainage system.

Up the road, MGM British Studios enjoyed a 100-acre backlot that included a working farm. Their first great outdoor set was a huge castle built for the film Ivanhoe, starring Robert Taylor. It was so robust that it stood for several years and used in other swashbucklers starring the likes of Alan Ladd and even Errol Flynn, who alas by then needed a platform to be able to mount a horse. Then in the late 1950s this landmark, that was visible from the roads, was demolished to make way for an enormous Chinese village created for The Inn Of Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman and a literally dying Robert Donat.

MGM continued to build great outdoor sets throughout the 1960s, including a French chateau for The Dirty Dozen , another castle for the Vampire Killers and a scaled down mountain for Where Eagles Dare. Like Elstree but on a larger scale, MGM also had a standing street set that cropped up in several films and television series. A housing estate now occupies the one-time backlot of movie magic.

I have visited exterior film sets elsewhere many times over the decades, from that created for Oliver at Shepperton to the Waltons' home at Warner Brothers in Hollywood. I have nothing but praise for the unsung craftsmen who were involved with every set. Although many backlots have been lost since the 1960s it still remains useful to have some outdoor space. For instance I recall visiting some nice sets made for the hugely successful The Crown television series on the backlot at Elstree last year. They were on the same space as the castle built for the Fay Wray film 80 years earlier. What a wonderful history.