Saturday, 14 August 2010

'Services, 10 miles...'

I'd been looking for this book everywhere. Hunting high and low in book shops, junk shops, internet forums, you name it. I'd actually given up hope, as I knew it had been a fairly limited run in the first place and I'd quite obviously missed the boat.

My good friend Ian Hodgson found this and put it in the post for me. I didn't even see it coming. To say that I felt elated when I opened the parcel and worked out what was inside, is a bit of an understatement. I still recall the sheer joy of seeing the cover as I took it from the envelope, so nonchalantly flopped on the doormat by the postman.

So… it's a history of the Motorway Service Station, exploring exotic places that exist in the hinterlands of the UK, for example Killington Lake, Tebay and Scratchwood. David Lawrence shows us rare vintage photos of these iconic stop-off points and delves into the history of how service stations came to be, the need for them, the purpose and the culture. Here are a few photos:

The services at Farthing Corner:

The 'Grill Room' at Scratchwood:

... and the very evocative interior at Southwaite:

The service station is another one of those things that The Advisory Circle just couldn't exist without. For me, they represented a mixture of a kind of strange, bleak cosiness (people not knowing each other, but holiday atmosphere, comfortable and stylish moulded seating, hot food and drinks) and excitement, because they were always a feature of family holidays and I wouldn't usually know exactly where we were going (because my dad had planned everything with precision). It's the feeling of being curled up on the back seat of the family car, listening to the hum of the engine, the patter of quiet parental conversation and some half-heard AOR song filtering through on the radio... then, peeling off the motorway and pulling into the services.

To this day, I still get that feeling when I enter a good service station en route to somewhere, for a coffee and a cake.

Association is a very powerful thing.

- Jb.


  1. Tremendous. McDonalds Xpress is no substitute.

  2. There was a piece by Michael Bracewell published a few years ago in Frieze on the subject, looking at this book, but also taking in Edward Platt's 'Leadville: A Biography of the A40' and Martin Parr's 'Boring Postcards':

  3. You've done it again, Jon - superb post.

    I feel exactly the same about service stations, even though they are now always crushingly disappointing.

    I think you touch on something very important here: the utopian potentials of the non-place ...

  4. And Jons right when he says association is powerful.Which is why Found objects is a fantastic blog..

  5. Mark, you are certainly correct about the sense of crushing disappointment at contemporary service stations. My experience at Watford Gap recently was dreary in extremis.

  6. I agree that most motorway services are rubbish these days, but there is quality nourishment to be found at the northbound Tebay services:

    Tebay is also featured in the book and at least part of the building dates back to the '70s. The facilities and interiors, although modern, definitely evoke That feeling in me when I visit. It's not cosy in a moulded-seating kind of way, but the high quality of the food and drink (they even have a farm shop there, with artisan-baked goods etc) can't be ignored. Coupled with the relaxed, convivial atmosphere and you're onto a winner.

    Definitely worth a visit (or two) if you're heading up through Cumbria or into Scotland.

    - Jb.

  7. One of the things I love about motorway service stations is the that they are one of those "non-places" that exist cut-off from any firm sense of location; if you went to the magnificent post tower at Forton Services, you not really "in" Forton.

    Airports have it as well but combine it with an international feel. A good service station couldn't really be anywhere except 70s Britain.

    The original I-Spy Motorways book is a great thing to have if you like this kind of thing. I'll have to start searching for the Always A Welcome book now.

  8. Oh hang on, I see one of the other posts makes that same point. It's my first time here and I'm a bit over-excited :-)