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History of Barnsdale Bar services

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Barnsdale Bar Autogrill.jpg
The restaurant as it opened, as a Fortes Autogrill.

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Opened as Forte Autogrill 1963?
Northbound Little Chef opened 1980
Southbound Little Chef opened 1988
Little Chefs closed 2004
Little Chefs opened 2005
Little Chefs closed 2012

Barnsdale Bar is a pair of services on the A1 near Doncaster, best known for its large restaurant building. Unlike other services of this era, this one was developed privately by Fortes.


The site is named after the site of the former Barnsdale toll gate or 'bar', which was situated at the junction between the Great North Road and the Pontefract Road during the era of horse-drawn coaches, before the growth of the railways.

For marketing purposes the site has often been referred to as 'Doncaster services', but then so have several other nearby facilities.


In the early 1960s, Fortes were establishing a chain of motorway service areas. For them, it was important to get there before any competitors did, as there were only limited contracts available. In practice, they found the regulations and requirements associated with each contract quite onerous.

To the south of here, the new A1(M) opened in 1961, but had no service station contracts immediately available. Fortes therefore decided to take advantage of the increasing traffic levels and the lack of regulations here by building their own service station, exactly as they wanted it: catering for high-end families and business people while excluding lorry drivers.

Along with a similar site at Oxford Peartree, Barnsdale Bar opened under Fortes's exclusive Autogrill brand, with Kenwell providing the catering. It had a distinctive roof painted orange, with a spire by the entrance, which fronted the A1. There was a large restaurant and a shop, as well as an additional building behind it. A glass footbridge was provided to cross between the two sides, with large car parks and a small forecourt on each side.

Fortes' publicity for Keele services in November 1963 appears to show Barnsdale Bar on the map, which suggests it was open by then.

Towards the end of the 1960s, the Pontefract branch of Fortes's Excelsior Motor Lodge opened up on the land behind the main building. It was American-styled with its bright lights and looked like a cross from above, with a short tower section.


Fortes's Autogrill name was phased out before too long in favour of their own. Fortes later rebranded all of their service stations Trusthouse Forte and then (in 1974) Motorchef, and this happened at Barnsdale Bar too. It's likely it was branded Welcome Break from 1988. Forte's restaurants were added, including The Granary and a carvery.

In 1988, The Granary was replaced by Little ChefHistory. The building was extended and the entrance moved to face the car park. Coupled with the northbound side (below), this made it a pair of restaurants.

The building gained a Coffee Stop, which became a Café Nescafe. Granada changed this to a Burger King, which was later removed and became a Coffee Tempo!.

The hotel became one of the early TraveLodge motels by the 1980s. As Travelodge moved into the budget accommodation market and were trying to be consist with their branches, this one had become tired, so in the early 1990s it was demolished and rebuilt in a more typical style, with a brick building and an L-shape. It was a two-storey construction with one level below ground level.

In 1994, Forte proposed building a new "motorway services building" at Woodfield Road, an address immediately south of Barnsdale Bar. The address may be an error, but the application was registered with Doncaster Borough Council, who are responsible for the land south of here. This suggests Forte were actively considering replacing their own site.

In 2010 the Shell service stations were demolished and rebuilt, allowing the addition of a Select stores on the forecourts, with a Coffee Republic coffee machine situated inside. In 2012, the Coffee Republic machines were replaced with Costa Express.

Northbound Side

Little Chef Barnsdale.
The northbound restaurant as a Little Chef.

Initially the catering facilities were on the southbound side only, meaning northbound traffic had to stop and use the footbridge.

In 1980 Forte decided to stop this detour and add to the existing choice by building a Little ChefHistory. At the time, this was the first Little Chef here, and it opened outside Barnsdale at the same time as a Little Chef opened outside Peartree. It was painted white with a flat roof, and stripey awning all around. A Coffee Stop was added in the '90s.

The bridge between the two sides was demolished in the early 2000s.


Abandoned restaurant.
The restaurant building, closed in 2019.

Little Chef and Travelodge were being operated as one company when they were purchased by Permira in 2002. Permira were supportive of Travelodge, but must have had reservations about this site. In 2004, both restaurants at Barnsdale Bar was closed and locked up with furniture still inside.

In 2005, Little Chef were sold on. Unusually, this deal included the Travelodge. New owners People's Restaurant Company decided to re-open both restaurants, and re-branded the Travelodge as Days Inn. To raise cash, some restaurants had their land sold and leased back, and this deal included the motel.

A Coffee Tempo! was added to the southbound side in 2006, shortly followed by a Burger King.

In 2012, Little Chef Express replaced Coffee Tempo! at a time when then owners R Capital had decided to close 67 other branches. This implied continued commitment to Barnsdale Bar, but in September 2012 both sides of Barnsdale Bar were included in an extended wave of closures. Little Chef's IT department had been moved to the building at Barnsdale Bar.

The southbound restaurant became DD's, while the motel became Southside Lodge and then Metro Inns, both of which have now closed down. Even under DD's, the restaurant had plenty of Little Chef red paint, and the toilets appeared to still be tiled in Fortes green. Meanwhile Metro Inns still had Days Inn colours and shapes inside.

The Future

The former northbound restaurant is now a Pulse & Cocktails Adult Superstore. The abandoned southbound facilities were visited by urban explorers in a 2020 YouTube video.

In January 2019, 23.5 Degrees submitted plans to build a Starbucks Drive Thru in the former southbound hotel car park. This was postponed after Highways England requested more information. The plans were later withdrawn in late 2019.

In March 2020, a second planning application was submitted. This time the plans included the Starbucks Drive Thru and associated parking in the same position as before however it is also planned that the current derelict restaurant building will be demolished to make way for a McDonald's Drive Thru restaurant and associated parking as well as two units (planned to be occupied by Greggs and Subway) within the hotel car park. The Starbucks car park is also planned to include 6 electric vehicle charging points which will be situated in front of the existing hotel building which is expected to remain. Once again, Highways England have postponed this application until further information is provided in regards to how increased traffic to the site will be managed to reduce the impact the site has on the main A1 carriageway.

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