Lancaster (Forton) Services
The Pennine Tower
Lancaster (Forton) Services is located in Lancashire
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Location in Lancashire, England
Lancaster (Forton) Services is located in the Borough of Wyre
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Location in Wyre Borough , Lancashire
Lancaster (Forton) Services is located in UK motorways
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Lancaster (Forton) Services
Location on the UK motorway network
Coordinates:53°57′39″N 2°45′34″W / 53.960779°N 2.759575°W / 53.960779; -2.759575
OperatorMoto Hospitality
Previous operator(s)Top Rank
Previous name(s)Forton Services
Date opened1965[1]

Lancaster (Forton) services is a motorway service station, between junctions 32 and 33 of the M6 motorway in England. The nearest city is Lancaster, about 7 miles (11 km) to the north. The site is operated by Moto.

Like many older service stations, it has an all-weather enclosed bridge which enables pedestrians to use both the northbound and southbound facilities. In 2005 this bridge had work carried out to strengthen it to withstand the impact of a heavy goods vehicle.[2]


In September 1964, it was due to open in April 1965, when it was announced that all Rank Organisation service areas would have showers and rest rooms for truck drivers, starting with Forton. The company felt that lorry drivers were often overlooked, and that lorry drivers previously had a 'smoke and a sandwich in a lay-by'. These views came from John Davis, chairman of The Rank Organisation, at the awards ceremony of the UK Lorry Driver of the Year[3] awards near Nuneaton on 13 September 1964, won by 32 year old John Gunn of Ottawa Road in Leicester, employed by Wolsey Ltd of Leicester; the competition had started in Coventry in 1952.[4]


It opened in November 1965 with the name Forton services; it was the second service station to open on the motorway (Charnock Richard being the first), and is named after the nearby village of Forton. The architect was T. P. Bennett and Son and it was originally operated by The Rank Organisation (Top Rank Motor Inns). T. P. Bennett and Son's first design for service areas was Strensham services; Forton was its second. Farthing Corner (Medway services) on the M2 was the first Top Rank to open, followed by Knutsford.[5]

It was opened on the Preston-Lancaster section of the M6.[6] Junction 33 (A6) is to the north and junction 32 (M55) is to the south; the section opened in 1965.[7]


The services is notable for an unusual hexagonal concrete tower on the northbound side, named The Pennine Tower, which originally housed an up-market restaurant and a sun deck.[8] The tower was designed to resemble an air traffic control tower and is a prominent local landmark. The tower is 74 feet (23 m) across.

The tower closed to the public in 1989 due to current fire regulations (there is no means of providing an alternative exit from the restaurant deck in an emergency), and is only used for storage and occasional staff training.[9] The tower was built to give views over Morecambe Bay to the west and the Trough of Bowland to the east. Recently, Moto has refreshed the services. The tower has been painted in a beige colour and one of the passenger lifts has been refurbished.

The tower was listed Grade II on 15 October 2012.[10]

The site's eastern edge is the boundary between Wyre district and City of Lancaster district.

There is a Burger King, a Costa Coffee, a WHSmith, and a Greggs on each side of the service station. The services also has a Marks & Spencer Simply Food store, a Pret, and a KFC on the northbound side.

In popular culture

The services are the setting for a case file in the fiction horror podcast The Magnus Protocol, a sequel/sidequel to the award-winning podcast The Magnus Archives. In the eighth episode, "Running on Empty",[11] the case is a dramatised reading of a rejected thesis submission. The submission proposes the establishment of a synthesis architectural concept called "Brutal Liminality", with Forton Services as the case study given its Brutalist architecture and its liminal nature as a services station. The student hypothesizes that there are negative psychological impacts of prolonged exposure to such spaces, arguing that there is a dangerous "architectural hunger" inherent to a space that "resents its own transitory nature." The thesis finishes with the description of a paranormal experience at Forton Services, culminating in escape through the window of the Pennine Tower.


  1. ^ Motorway Services Trivia - Chronology - Accessed 26 January 2009
  2. ^ Highways Agency - Safety work strengthens footbridge at Forton Services on M6, Lancashire Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine - Accessed 26 January 2009
  3. ^
  4. ^ Coventry Evening Telegraph 14 September 1964, page 11
  5. ^ East Kent Gazette 30 May 1963, page 10
  6. ^ "40 Years Ago – Steelwork on the Motorways". New Steel Construction. 1 May 2006 [1966].
  7. ^ "UK Motorway Archive". Archived from the original on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  8. ^ RIBA
  9. ^ Forton Services - Accessed 26 January 2009
  10. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1404607)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  11. ^ Newall, Alexander J (29 February 2024). "The Magnus Protocol - Episode 8 "Running on Empty" Full Transcript & Show Notes". Retrieved 22 March 2024.