M6 tower now a listed building

Lancaster Services at Forton
Lancaster Services at Forton

It has stood as a landmark instantly familiar to motorists across Lancashire for nearly 50 years.

And now the former Pennine Tower Restaurant at Forton Motorway Services has been granted Grade II listed building status.

The tower and cantilevered restaurant, between junctions 32 and 33 of the M6, off White Carr Lane, near Lancaster, has been listed for its special architectural or historic interest.

It was built from 1964 to 1965 and was designed by London architects Practice T P Bennett & Sons, best known for their work on theatres and cinemas including the former Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, for Top Rank Motor Inns.

Chief architect Bill Galloway created a structure consisting of reinforced concrete, asbestos cement sheeting between cased stanchions and acoustic tiles on the restaurant roof, to reduce the reflection of road noise.

English Heritage, which made the decision, said: “Motorway service stations were a new post-war building type dependant upon the development of Great Britain’s motorway network commencing in the late 1950s, with Forton an early example and one of the most striking, being distinguished by its unique landmark 22m tower, with cantilevered restaurant and sun deck.

“Forton demonstrated a new popularist architecture ideally suited to the democratic new aesthetic of the motorway, the Pennine Tower Restaurant acting both as a beacon to attract the passing motorists and as a glamorous vantage point from which they were able to enjoy spectacular prospects of the motorway below and more extensively over the miles of surrounding countryside through which they passing.”

It said the significant component was the tower, “reminiscent in form to an airport control tower, evoking the modern glamour of 1960s air travel.”

The hexagonal tower shaft is situated at the south-east corner of the original service station, now known as Lancaster Service Area, on the northbound side of the M6.

The tower shaft, which is no longer accessible to the public, contains two lifts, a curved staircase, and a row of three small service lifts for transporting food up to the restaurant.