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History of Leigh Delamere services

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Leigh Delamere 70s.jpg
Picnic tables at the front of the services.

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Opened by Taverna 1972
Sold to Granada 1973
Re-branded Moto 2001

Although you might not think it now, Leigh Delamere was part of an era of service station design where the emphasis was on making it a pleasant place to visit. Even today, it stands out for its large grounds and buildings.

Mobil were allowed to bid for the services despite owning nearby Michaelwood as not much traffic was expected to take that route.

Beneath the westbound site apparently lies two buried diggers.

Opening

When Leigh Delamere opened in 1972 (the contract was dated 14 March), it was praised for its simple but striking building design; the antidote to the crowded and complicated services built so far. At 41 acres, when it opened it was considered massive - 10 years ago services had been only eight acres in total size.

Taverna were slightly scarred by their poor experience with Washington, but even so they wanted to make Leigh Delamere exciting. A last-minute change in company policy caused the opening to be delayed and a second trial of microwave catering to be used. The restaurant had orange settees, and outside was a large landscaped area. The restaurant was divided into two, keeping private vehicles and lorry drivers separate.

Thanks to their good design work, in 1975 Leigh Delamere was the only service station to impress a panel of architects, who called it "extremely fine, large and spacious". A trial children's play area had been sanctioned by the Department for Transport, occupying a cut-off quadrant in the northern corner.

In 1986 it was noted that the weekly patronage varied from 16,000 to 129,000 during the year, and employees varied from 200 to 300. This makes it approximately four times bigger than Ferrybridge services, which was surveyed at the same time.

The first of the motels here opened in 1988.

Events

On 22 November 1974, the services were closed due to a bomb scare.

Until 1976, the services had a major infestation problem caused by a neighbouring landfill site. Granada had been told it would close, but they had to get the Department of Environment to intervene before anything happened.

Leigh Delamere used to be listed by the Highways Agency as an "approved truckstop", but no longer is.

Shops and Restaurants

Green restaurant.
The exclusive Fork In The Road restaurant.

Leigh Delamere used to be one of three services to offer a Barber Shop, the other ones being Lymm on the M6 and Toddington on the M1. It was replaced by a Greggs outlet in March 2015.

The westbound services used to have an AJ's. This became a Little Chef, along with a new restaurant on the eastbound side, after Granada acquired the brand in 1996.

Under Granada, the westbound side was extended to gain a BHS Express, Tandy, Halfords, Claire's and an Early Learning Centre. Under Moto, only BHS were kept. They instead introduced Birthdays and Scoop stores, as well as T2, Thorntons, The Sock Shop and a Formula One shop to both sides, the latter being a huge shop which sold a small amount of Ferrari merchandise.

The eastbound side had a Web Shop and The Body Shop. Two units at the back remain closed, while one has become a Greggs (unusually far from the car park).

A BT "communications room" was added outside the westbound building in around 2000. It is essentially a summerhouse-shaped room with public telephones mounted to the walls. Whilst it is one of BT's more unusual public phone experiments, it was only one of two in UK service stations and is no longer here. Around this time, BT also provided a workspace in the westbound services, designed to attract passing business people with contemporary perks of the time such as a phone and internet connection.

In around 2001 a drive-thru Burger King was added to the service area. Although it has since closed (presumably because it directed trade away from the main building), the set-up can still be seen on the westbound side.

In November 2006 the country's first service station WHSmith shop opened here, along with the eastbound M&S Simply Food store. The restaurant's name was changed to Fork In The Road, and the two Little Chefs were removed around this time.

In circa 2007/2008, the westbound unbranded restaurant and Caffè Ritazza units became Costa. Fork In The Road and Upper Crust became EDC and Costa respectively.

In 2011, the eastbound side gained the first ever Domino's Pizza outlet, in what was billed as the start of a full roll-out. This never happened, and the outlet was removed in January 2012.

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