The Watford Gap’s restaurant in 1968 when the services were known as the Blue Boar (Picture: Daily Mail)
Watford Gap Services, where music legends such as the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would stop off, is facing demolition.
The iconic services on the M1 in Northamptonshire opened in 1959 and was the first service station in the UK.
Now Roadchef, which currently owns it, wants to knock the complex down, and build a new low-carbon facility, which would boast 150 electric vehicle charging points and a two-storey car park.
Roadchef’s chief executive Mark Fox said the buildings, which are spread across north and south bound sites, were past their ‘sell-by date’.
In the 1960s the services, known as the gateway to the north, were frequently visited by musicians such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Dusty Springfield and Cliff Richards as they made there way to and from gigs.
The sprawling development – called the Blue Boar until the 90s – was even described as the ‘epicentre of cool’ at one point.
It opened on November 2, 1959, the same day as the M1 opened, and was initially run by a local company called Blue Boar.
Roadchef’s chief executive Mark Fox described Watford Gap as ‘past its sell-by date'(Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography/REX/S)
It started as a wooden shed with a petrol pump, but had rapidly expanded by the mid-60s, which is when the musicians turned up.
The services were a handy place to stop, rest and eat a meal on their cross-country journeys.
Jimi Hendrix had been told so much about the Blue Boar that he apparently thought it was a nightclub in London. That was until he visited himself.
Watford Gap’s restaurant in the 1960s, when tea cost 6d
One former employee, Beatrice England, would work night shifts at the service station and collected several celebrity autographs, including ones from Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, Brian Jones, Dusty Springfield Shirly Bassey and members of the Eagles.
Folk guitarist Roy Harper, meanwhile, even wrote a song about the services, which included the less-than flattering line: ‘It’s the Watford Gap, Watford Gap, a plate of grease and a load of c**p.’
Roadchef bought the complex in 1995. Current chief executive Mark Fox told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Watford gap, which is the original service station opened in 1959, just needs to be knocked down and rebuilt.
Watford Gap in 1993 when it won the Motorway Best Cup of Tea Award (Picture: Associated Newspapers)
‘It’s past its sell-by date, particularly the southbound, which was the first one opened. We’ve spent money on it over the years and inside it’s kind of okay.
‘But we’re not proud of it as a physical asset and we want to build a new one on the corner of the site and then level the old one.’
But Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns to protect post-1914 buildings of value, described Watford Gap as a cultural and architectural icon and said it would be a great loss it was knocked down.
Watford Gap lies on the M1 in Northamptonshire (Picture: PA)
She said if the services were demolished, she hoped the new buildings would be a ‘real counterpoint to the mediocrity and blandness’ of recently built service stations.
Ms Croft also said she’d like there to be an exhibition dedicated to the Watford Gap displayed in the new complex.
Before it can start redevelopment, Roadchef must negotiate a new lease with the Department for Transport, which owns both sites.
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The demolition would make way for a new service station with 150 electric car charging points.