Leicester Forest East service station marks 50th birthday
A "once glamorous" motorway service station on the M1 is celebrating its 50th birthday.
Leicester Forest East opened on 14 February 1966 with "waiters in sailor suits and a pianist on a baby Grand."
At its heart was The Captain's Table restaurant in the bridge over the M1 - now replaced by fast food outlets.
The once-innovative design is unlikely to win many admirers now, but Crap Towns author Sam Jordison has praised its "refreshingly upfront" ugliness.
"As there are fewer and fewer buildings like this we come to appreciate them more," he said.
"Let's hope it lasts another 50 years."
When it opened, just seven years after the first phase of the M1 was completed, it offered diners the opportunity for silver service on the motorway and marked a move away from the traditional roadside cafe.
Terry Waite and Steve Davis
Professor Joe Moran, of Liverpool John Moores University, said: "[Service stations] used to be very glamorous places, just as the motorways in the 1960s were excitingly novel places to drive.
"When it opened in 1966, Leicester Forest East had a Terence Conran-designed restaurant with waiters in sailor suits, décor like an ocean liner, an open balcony on to the motorway like a ship's deck, and a pianist playing on a baby Grand.
"It was really the first attempt to turn the motorway meal into a gourmet experience.
"Needless to say it didn't last long, but motorway services are an important part of our social history and cultural mythology."
Staff have recalled how working at Leicester Forest East sometimes provided opportunities to rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
Suzanne Chapman, who works in a newsagents at the service station, said: "Terry Waite, Steve Davis, they've all been through.
"We've had loads of celebrities, David Frost came, but he didn't come to the till, he sent his driver and he stood in the background."
X Factor winner Sam Bailey also worked at the newsagents before becoming famous.
Some encounters have proved to be more unexpected than others.
Former employee Jayne Gardener recalled: "We were going over to take some stuff over to the store room one day.
"Five young fellas held the door open for us and we didn't think anything of it as they were pleasant fellas. But when we got back one of the girls in the office was going crazy.
"We said 'what's the matter' and she said 'Westlife are in' and they'd held the door open for us and we didn't know who they were."