Burtonwood Service Station

Our drive to record as much history of Burtonwood, Penketh, Sankey and other areas of West Warrington as possible is not limited to the long distant past, or even to the oldest possible of living memories. We are desperate to record any memories you have of the area however recent.

With this in mind, the item I have chosen to talk to you about today is something you might not have imagined we wanted to know about.

A Drawing of Burtonwood Service Station in 1977

Burtonwood Service Station on the M62 was designed for the Motorchef company by the architect Patrick Gwynne and officially opened in 1974. At that time it had two sites, one on either side of the motorway.

The buildings, with their iconic tepee shaped roofs, soon became a landmark for travellers on the motorway.

Gwynne (1913 – 2003) was known primarily for his designing of modernist luxury houses, but did also design several well-known restaurants in desirable locations such as London’s Hyde Park. With this in mind, a motorway service station on the M62 might seem a little insalubrious by comparisson, but remember, motorways were still new and exciting at this point and were a part of the modernist world view to which Gwynne’s designs belonged.

Gwynne’s own home “Homewood”, at Esher in Surrey, is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public if you want to see another example of his work. But why travel to Surrey when you can see such a striking example of modernism right here on your doorstep?

Homewood, Built by Gwynne in 1938

Whether you love or hate modernist architecture, it was undeniably the most major shift in British architecture of the 20th Century. It saw design become based on the capabilities of new materials and new methods of construction rather than being based on the study and adaptation of historic styles. The modernists created art, music, literature and architecture that was startlingly different to anything seen before. So, the next time you are sat in the Burtonwood service station having a cup of tea and a sandwich, think of the moment in history that building represents, think of the ‘brave new world’ its designer was trying to create.

Have you got any photographs of Burtonwood Service Station that we could add a copy of to our archives? If so contact Philip Jeffs on [email protected]g

This article was originally posted on Monday, March 20th, 2017.