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Some Buildings Just Catch Your Eye.

Way back in 1979 or1980 I was involved in the making of a short educational film about conic sections. You know: circles, ellipses, hyperbolas, parabolas. That sort of thing. It was to include some footage – yes, it was back in the days of videotape – of the canopy of what was then a filling station at Markham Moor on the A1. It's a building that really catches the eye. Since those days it's been a Happy Eater, a Little Chef, left to decay, threatened with demolition, made a Grade II listed building and is now, I believe, is a drive-through Starbucks.

Course mate and housemate Paul and I climbed into his green Hillman Avenger and set off on the two hundred mile round trip from Cambridge. He was getting a decent mileage rate and we were both missing maths lectures. What wasn't to like?

With sufficient footage acquired of the hyperbolic paraboloid it was time to head back south, and on the return journey we passed this equally interesting building. It certainly caught my eye. I don't believe it's visible from the road these days, but you have to remember that the A1 then was in an earlier incarnation. This was before this stretch had became a motorway with its modern underpasses and slip roads. This was in the days of two lanes, and roundabouts for which you had to start braking as soon as you'd managed to get back up to 70mph having crossed the previous one a couple of miles further back.

The Norman Cross Motel stood adjacent to the south-bound carriageway, not far from the village of Yaxley. In the hamlet of Norman Cross, as it so happens. Built in 1962 by Charrington's, and originally operated under the Crest brand, it was Europe's first circular motel. But it wasn't the first Norman Cross Motel. Charrington's already had one of those a stone's throw away. The Worboys road signs tell us that this picture is from 1964 or later...

...but it had been a motel earlier than that.

Unsurprisingly it wasn't always a motel. Quite when the 'M' replaced the 'H' I don't know, but it was certainly after the invention of the motor car.

Norman Cross Hotel
That's my bike. I didn't have a car in those days.

Where the A15 meets the A1 there is now an elevated roundabout and slip roads. Just a few years ago there used to be a simple roundabout and before that simple roundabout there used to be a cross roads – Norman Cross – where London Road (now the A15) intersected the line of the Great North Road (now the A1). At that crossroads stood a hotel.

Norman Cross Hotel
The Norman Cross Hotel at the crossroads, complete with finger post signpost.

Opening in the 1830s, it was called the New Inn...

Extract from Pigot's 1839 directory.

...until sometime between 1901...

Extract from the 1901 census.

...and 1911 when it changed its name to the Norman Cross Hotel.

1911 census entry for the Norman Cross Hotel

Charrington's operated the pair in tandem for a while. Ownership/branding changed a few times and the new site was developed further. The road developments referenced above came at a cost for the original hotel and its site now lies under the tarmac of New Road, from where the image below was captured in 2009. It shows how the new Norman Cross Motel had been incorporated into the Premier Inn building.

Norman Cross Motel
Incorporated into the Premier Inn in June 2009. © Google 2022

That particular Premier Inn is now closed, permanently according to Mr. Google. So, with the original gone who knows what fate awaits the now old new Norman Cross Motel. I don't think it'll necessarily be a happy one.

Norman Cross Motel
Closed and forlorn in June 2022. © Google 2022.

What triggered this little bit of nostalgia and dragged the memory of this trip out of my neocortex, or wherever it is that long-term episodic memory happens to be stored? A trip back up the A1? No. Reliving negotiating Markham Moor roundabout in a time trial back in the days of much higher fitness levels and much lower traffic counts? No. Wasn't that either. I was searching the Charrington archives for a picture of a different bygone boozer of theirs when the one of the new Norman Cross leapt out at me. It really is a building which catches the eye. And yes, I did find the picture I was looking for. It will be featuring in a post of its own sometime soon.

The image of the Little Chef at Markham Moor is copyright Ned Trifle and is reused under this licence whilst those of the Charrington Surveyors are copyright and reused under this one.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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