Watford Gap, the oldest of Britain’s motorway service stations opened

Monday 2nd November 1959

Watford Gap, the oldest of Britain’s motorway service stations opened. From the beginning, Watford Gap Services was owned by Blue Boar. They took their name from the petrol station they owned – on a roundabout on the A5, close to Watford Gap. In turn, the petrol station took its name from an inn called “The Blue Boar” – on the same roundabout (which continues a long English tradition of places taking their names from local hostelries). Blue Boar were granted the first services (at Watford Gap) because it was clear that giving it to anyone else would have destroyed their business. Subsequent services were granted on a more commercial basis. Very popular with pop stars in the 1960’s. Urban story has it that Jimi Hendrix thought Blue Boar was the name of a London club, because so many of his contemporaries mentioned it. In 1977 an artist called Roy Harper released an album called ‘Bullinamingvase’ which originally included the song ‘Watford Gap’ with its lyric ‘Watford Gap, Watford Gap, a plate of grease and a load of c**p’. Later versions of the album did not feature the song as a member of the EMI board was also a member of the Watford Gap’s board of directors. For a very brief time, the motorway services were rather classy – they even had hostesses to guide travellers to their seats. (For many early travellers, this was the classiest restaurant they’d ever been to. Indeed, many would not have “eaten out” at all, before.) But standards quickly dropped. Blue Boar sold out their motorway interests to Road Chef, in 1995.

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