In the US, the cultural icons of roadside America, especially gas stations, are widely celebrated and a common theme of commentary on design, architectural and social history, as well as being supported by a large base of enthusiastic collectors of 'petroliana'.
In Britain, however, there has never been quite the same level of public appreciation of petrol stations, and the last couple of decades have seen a vast percentage of our roadside heritage lost, mainly as a result of so many thousands of independently run small and rural garages (and their suppliers) being forced out of a market with such tiny margins, but also through explicit destruction (e.g. government mandated replacement of pumps dispensing in gallons, or health & safety legislation outlawing kerbside pumps). Even among the survivors, increased corporate conformity, economies of scale and focus on consistent branding, 'best practice' and 'user experience' has meant that there is now almost total homogeneity within the larger chains of stations.
This site focuses on filling stations petrol pumps, branding and signage and (eventually) the histories of the companies involved. The aim is, in time, to build up a comprehensive record of what was an extremely diverse industry (and new developments), but the site will start as a kind of British equivalent of the excellent US site GasSigns.org. For historical details of many companies and brands, Ian Byrne's wonderful Petrol Maps is the best source of information on the internet.
As a starting point (December 2005), I have started to produce the following list (image-intensive illustrated version | text-only version) of known brands of petrol sold in Great Britain (no Northern Ireland yet, sorry) from the end of 'Pool' (1953) to the present day, with a photo of the logo, where I have one. The photos are mostly my own. Anyone who can add to the list and /or fill in the gaps would be greatly appreciated please see How You Can Help. (Just as an aside, I can count 22 brands that have ended up, one way or another, effectively under the control/ownership of Total!)
Update: March 2006
Many thanks to everyone who has been in touch since the site was launched with information and photos/illustrations of brands on the list, and also new brands to add. In particular I am grateful to Ian Byrne, Paul Farrow and Brian Whaley for their help, plus John Cirillo of GasSigns.org for linking to the site and bringing a large percentage of visitors here.
you can help
This is only a hobby for me, and so I don't have as much time to spend on the project as I'd like. Ultimately it is my intention to produce a book, which would have to tread a fine line between well-illustrated arthouse coffee-table nothingness and encyclopaedic analysis of logo design and detail of companies' activities of interest to comparatively few readers, but this will be a few years down the line.
If you have photographs of any petrol stations in Britain from the last 50 years or so, from any other than the main brands, or interesting photos of any stations (including abandoned garages or roadside pumps), petrol pumps or globes, signage or brochures that you've collected, then I'd be very interested to hear from you. My own collection is reasonable, but the geographical distribution of the photo locations necessarily reflects my own journeys in the UK, and so there are areas where I'm lacking in coverage, and I've only been taking photos since 1987 (when I was 5!)
Equally, if you can add to/correct the list of brands, or provide information about the companies and their operations then this would be much appreciated. In time each brand will have its own page with information and pictures; I have done some research at the Energy Institute (former Institute of Petroleum) library, but need to do a lot more. I also intend to approach Catalist again about making use of their photo archive and brand list, and local county councils' photo archives around the country may also be a major resource.
Thanks for reading, and please check back in a few months' time to see if the site has progressed!
Gas Signs - the most comprehensive collection of (mainly US) logos and photos of signs and stations
European Petrol Company Maps - also includes information on companies and network history
Old garages, dealerships and petrol filling stations - Photos of surviving garages on OldClassicCar.co.uk
Old petrol pumps in Scotland - Some very atmospheric photos of pumps and stations in the Scottish Highlands in the 1980s
Old Birmingham Garages - Photographs & memories of old garages in Birmingham
Catalist - Retail data company with very useful free online interactive map of _almost_ all petrol stations in the UK.
Primarily Petroliana / Oldgas.com - US-based community bringing gas station antique collectors, dealers, publishers and service providers together
How to Design a Successful Petrol Station by the late Marcello Minale - interesting and well-illustrated case studies of major oil company branding and station design from a number of design consultancies, although Minale Tattersfield predominate
Petroleum Collectables by Mike Berry - a compact, detailed Shire guide to pre-war British petrol retailing memorabilia
The Country Garage by Llyn E Morris - a Shire Album charting the early development of British garages and filling stations, with some wonderful pre-war photos