Lady Henley's Manor

Gap Services was built on an island, between the canal and an un-named brook. The island had no name either. The brook was diverted, and can be seen in a culvert by the staff car park. The land belonged to the Henley family of Watford parish, who also owned most of the parish.

The villagers remember Lady Henley appearing on television, in 1959, when appearing on television was something special. She was protesting about the invasion of the motorway into the rural idyll. They also recall that she did rather well out of the compensation money.

The real blow came in 1975, when Lord Henley died unexpectedly at the age of 62, without taking any steps to protect his estate from death duties. The taxes destroyed the Henley estate, most of it being sold off, including Watford Court, the manor house. Within two years this house of some architectural repute had been demolished, to make way for executive homes.

Thanks to John Benfield, I can now show photos of Watford Court, as it was before 1975.

It is doubtful whether the villagers miss their feudal past. The motorway has brought them employment, and better contact with the rest of the world, and they've still got a beautiful village, set in beautiful countryside. They are probably quite glad that few people know about that escape route from the services.

At the top of Church Street, a signpost points to Watford Gap - the real Watford Gap. It's quite difficult to find, if you're expecting another Midlands village, because the real Watford Gap is a single, empty property.

It sits at the top of a long rising stretch of the A5, otherwise known as Watling Street. This road is a long, straight reminder of the Roman method of road building, dominating a natural pass into the Midlands plateau.

Escape Escape Watford Gap Forever Watford Gap Forever
© David Craig Send me a message