Lancaster services on M6 wins grade II-listed status

English Heritage recommends status for 13 motor car-oriented buildings, from 1920s petrol stations to 1900s 'motor stables' in Kent

While the words "glamour" and "motorway service station" rarely appear together there was a time when the Pennine Tower Restaurant, enviably located on the M6 between junctions 32 and 33, was the place to be.

With its air traffic control aesthetic, waiter service and unparalleled views of the motorway, the 22 metre-high (72ft) concrete tower on the northbound side of Forton (now Lancaster) services was a must-stop destination for many drivers in the 1960s.

On Monday, along with petrol stations and car showrooms, the tower was named as one of 13 buildings awarded listed status as English Heritage set about celebrating the age of the motor car.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "The motor car, like the railways before it, changed the world in which we live. Now, in an age when it is common to blame cars for blighting our environment, it is time to recognise and appreciate the positive contribution they have made to England's heritage."

The Grade II-listings were made by the culture minister, Ed Vaizey, on English Heritage advice. He said the buildings provided a setting and infrastructure for the motor car's golden age. "Cars are safer these days and driving far less of an adventure, but some of us still like to embrace our inner Mr Toad and so it's great that our motoring heritage is properly recognised in this way."

The buildings tell the history of motoring, from an aspirational hobby for the rich to a way of life for the masses. Forton Towerwhich sitsbetween Preston and Lancaster, is included for imbuing glamour at a time – albeit shortlived – when service stations could be seen as a good day out.

The earliest building given listed status is the "motor stables" built by pioneer Sir David Salomons at his house at Broomhill, Kent, which dates from 1900. The garages were dedicated to the management and maintenance of motor vehicles and remain almost as Salomons left them.

Also on the list are the former Morris garage in Longwall Street, Oxford, and Empire House on London's Brompton Road,built as the offices of the Continental Tyre and Rubber Co and which has tyres as sculptural decorations in place of classical wreaths.

Three of the earliest British petrol stations from the late 20s – in Rother, East Sussex; East Sheen, Surrey; and Colyford, East Devon – have also been listed.

The most recent buildings include the Forton Tower and the Tower Garage at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, built in 1962. Inspired by the space age, it boasts a flying saucer-shaped roof. It is now both a car showroom and a diner.

English Heritage announced the 13 listings together with a new book by Kathryn A Morrison and John Minnis, Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture and Landscape in England.

Thurley said the book was the fruit of a major English Heritage research project. "We expect that over the next few years it will improve our ability to protect early motoring structures in England."


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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