Petrol stations are not known for fuelling aesthetic enlightenment (think more financial ruin, as we watch our money flow away in a blur of digits) but there was a time when filling up required a sophisticated setting.
Relics of the glory days of motoring were recognised yesterday when English Heritage granted listed status to two stations built in the 1960s and 1970s. The earlier, Markham Moor on the A1 in West Drayton, Nottinghamshire, swaps the standard square canopy for a sweeping parabolic wing. The second, the Mobil station on the A6 at Red Hill in Leicestershire, is formed of six overlapping parasols. The stations look as if they were transported from The Jetsons, the futuristic 1960s US animation, and recall a sense of promise and style that once hung over our roads. Motorways were new and resembled runways, served by stations as glamorous as the airport lounges of the same era.
Evidence of a brighter time can be found in other unlikely landmarks. The incongruous "Chinese Garage" in Beckenham in London was built in 1928 in the style of a Japanese pagoda, while the former premises of the car manufacturer Rootes was built in 1938 and still brings a touch of art deco glamour to Maidstone, Kent. Both are listed buildings.
Perhaps the most striking relic is the Pennine Tower at Lancaster Services on the M6. Resembling a UFO when it was opened in 1965, it housed a smart restaurant and sundeck. Both are now closed. Under the concrete at Markham Moor, meanwhile, the only thing you can fill up on today is gammon and eggs at Little Chef.