Back to previous page in sequence Next page in sequence

Navigation aidMURCO

Bell, EP

Brief History

Murphy Oil Corporation started retailing gasoline in the USA in 1957 by acquiring a number of small regional chains. Sensing that expansion might be easier outside the competitive US market, in the 1960s it acquired independents in Canada, Sweden and Britain. Although Murphy consolidated on the Spur brand in North America, the Spur name was owned in Britain by Spurrier Glazebrook, which kept a single station operational in Lancashire, so the Murco name was used instead.
The Swedish chain was soon sold to BP, but the British outlets, formed partly from the EP (=European Petroleum) and Olympic branded chains, survive to this day. Olympic was phased out around 1970, but a handful of EP branded stations survived into the 1990s, when it was briefly revived as a discount name. In the 2000s Murco continued to expand, buying most of the formerly company-owned Jet stations. Murphy divested its US retailing in 2012, but only found a local buyer in the Motor Fuel Group (MFG) in 2014. MFG had previously been a much smaller operator of mainly BP and Jet-branded stations; the combined group operates nearly 450 Murco-branded stations. Murco was unable to sell its Welsh refinery which was closed.

Maps: Murco

Late 1960s Murco map of Great Britain South

Murco first issued maps in the 1960s when Geographia Ltd prepared a pair covering Britain North and South at 9 miles to the inch. It is not known how regularly Murco issued maps, for the company supplied under 450 outlets, but the examples on the right date from about 1973 and 1975 respectively and each cover England & Wales on a single sheet at the same scale. These maps exist in two versions; one with a printed cover and the other pasted into a light card cover of the same design. It's not known which was earlier or if they came from the same year.
ca1975 map loaned by Richard Horwitz

ca1973 Murco map of England and Wales

ca1975 Murco map of England and Wales

The next map, showing the positioning of the oval logo onto a red controlled background, dates from May 1979, and is marked as being the 4th edition. The final sheet map - marked as 8th edition (1990) - has all of Britain on a single Bartholomew's sheet, still at 9 miles to the inch. The special offer price was applied as a sticker when the map was on sale at the Murco station in Bear Cross, Bournemouth in autumn 1990; another copy of this map has been seen with the price sticker replaced by one for "FREE". All Murco garages are listed on the 1990 map: company owned ones are named "Murco Service Station" with dealer sites carrying their owner's name.
Enlarge cover of 1979 map

1979 Murco map of England and Wales

1990 Murco map of Great Britain

From 1991 to 2008 Murco switched to selling a large format road atlas each year; it was the only petrol company to have regularly issued maps through this period, despite being a relatively small player in the UK Market.

1992 Murco atlas of Britain

1999 Murco atlas of Britain

2000 Murco atlas of Britain

2004 Murco atlas of Britain

2006 Murco atlas of Britain

2008 Murco Road Atlas of Britain

On the top left is the 1992 road atlas with an extremely busy cover depicting all elements of the Murco operation. Top centre is the 1999 version, by now spiral bound and the first to use the new Murco logo. Top right is an exceptional atlas, as for one year only Murco rebadged the AA superscale road atlas (covering the country at 1:150,000. Both 1999 and 2001 were - like all the other atlases known from Murco - created by Bartholomew.
Bottom left is the 2004 edition; this is the first map found on sale from the centenary year of the petrol company road map. Bottom centre is 2006 - each year the cover design was changed, so those shown here are only a representative sample of the styles sold. The 2008 edition was sold from late summer 2007 and listed Jet branded stations supplied by Murco as well as Murco branded sites. However this appears to have been the final year that Murco sold a branded atlas; subsequently Murco stations typically sold generic productions from AA or A-Z.
Apart from the 2000 edition, all were produced by Bartholomew at 1:200,000, although the most recent editions credit Collins on the front cover. As the price of some competing atlases fell, Murco reacted by taking its atlas upmarket, so that the final version included not only the basic maps, but 19 urban area maps at 1 inch to the mile and 60 city/town centre plans, including such unusual towns for detailed mapping as Windsor and Weston-super-Mare. All Murco atlases also listed Murco service station locations, usually on or inside the rear cover.
The 2002 atlas is shown on the UK Maps page.
Atlas covers are shown at two-thirds normal map scale. Enlarge covers of 2000 atlas or 2006 atlas.

Top of PageMaps: Bell/EP

Murco allowed a couple of jobbers to distribute petrol under the EP name. Sadler supplied 70 sites in the Northeast from its Middlesbrough base, but switched to its own brand in 1970 and later sold out to Q8.

1972 Bell map of Lincolnshire

Grimsby-based Bell Oil operations had 46 outlets, mainly in Lincolnshire, when it issued this map of the county in 1972. Drawn by local firm, Wally Day, it located the county's 24 Bell and 16 EP sites, as well as recommending hotels and restaurants. An unusual feature was a first aid guide and record sheet for accidents. Bell was one of the first companies to switch to AVIA in 1978, but was bought by the larger independent UK in the mid-1980s.

Detail from 1972 Bell map of Lincolnshire
This extract shows the basic town plan of Grimsby and Cleethorpes, together with the 11 Bell and EP stations in the towns. Town plans were also included for Lincoln and Boston.

Top of Page

Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 1999-2014

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.