A lost local cafe: What do you remember?

The odd square of cleared land is all that remains to show the cafe on the Chester Road at Shire Oak ever existed. Planning applications have come and gone, but the cafe was demolished and no developer has taken the site on. Imagery from Apple Maps.

There’s something come in a few weeks ago I think will make a good question for a Bank Holiday weekend, and it’s a subject I’ve been meaning to mention for years – the lost transport cafe on the Chester Road between Shire Oak Crossroads.

My generation called it ‘Greasy Lil’s’ although I think it was called the Shire Oak Cafe. I only went in once and remember it being a bit dingy, but busy. I believe it finally closed in the early 1990s.

Reader Phil asked:

Hi Bob

Do you remember the name of the now demolished diner/restaurant that was situated on the A452 near the quarry?

It was located on the Shire Oak nature reserve side in between Lichfield Road and Castlehill Road.


It was certainly a popular place, and like other lost independent transport cafes – places like The Four Winds in Heath Hayes, Taylors Cafe in Brownhills, The Wishing Well at Rugeley and Maria’s at Hints near Tamworth, memories of them trigger recollections of a lost age.

I can only find brief mention of the Shire Oak cafe online in this memory-jogging 2009 thread on a trucker’s forum. Yorkie bar not essential. Click here to read it.

I believe it may have been owned and run by a chap called Sid Cohen for a while, but I may be confused with the similar cafe that existed further down the Chester Road, later to become a Little Chef and is now an Indian Restaurant.

Does anyone have any memories of this lost roadhouse? Even better, are there any pictures?

If you can help, please do: Comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Despite repeated applications, the site of the cafe remains stubbornly undeveloped.

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18 Responses to A lost local cafe: What do you remember?

  1. andyropes7 says:

    It was one of the only cafes that still had ballet machines that attracted the youth to try and win money by getting the steel balls into the right holes
    I suppose it was a form of gambling looking back now but I remember the cafe and because of its like location it attracted big lorries off the Chester rd

  2. SHEILA NORRIS says:

    Yes, we lived at the house called Gentleshaw , just one field away during the 50s and 60s. It was called Sam’s Cafe. When I was 9 or 10 or so I used to go along there to buy a lolly or ice cream in the summer. The drivers used to tease me a bit and I was quite shy and didn’t like that very much! I think we could also go there if we got short of milk and they would let us have some. The over night lorry drivers used to park along the road and leave their engines running which kept all of us residents awake all night. The locals eventually managed to get double yellow lines put along in front of the houses. I think my Aunty has anecdote about a live rooster in a bag being sent via Collins to her Aunty in Stafford. It got out of the bag in the cafe and ran amok. Have it written down somewhere so will post it if I can find it. Hope this helps. Sheila.

  3. Ted Rogers says:

    Yes l remember it being called Sams cafe

  4. davidoakley says:

    Yes. Sam’s Cafe. The other one, near Birch Lane was know as ‘Bert’s Café, at one time. Sam’s Café had quite a big, rather steep frontage, quite adequate for lorries. Bert’s was on more level ground.

  5. aerreg says:


    cafe a favourite wartering hole for early morning bacon sandwiches and as you say further down chester road was another cafe also at this time of the year was another gift of nature oposite sams was the blue bell wood a i can recall many lovely weekend strolls along chester road and on through stonnall to crane brook the via lions den into hamerwich happy days and also in those days we just picked few blue bells to preserve the wood for others thanks for the memory god bless

  6. SHEILA NORRIS says:

    Found the aerial photo of the plot interesting. The quarry opposite was just a field of cabbages when I was a child. They smelt appallingly after rain!

  7. Ray Share says:

    It was called sams cafe next door up a long drive was the haunted house next to that the first house lived my pal Robert Horton a boys brigade lad

  8. Norman Taylor. says:

    In the 50’s it was known as Sam cafe thats all I can remember, I never went in but it always seemed busy, it would be nice to see a pboto.

  9. Mick Bullock says:

    I frequented Sam’s cafe in the early 60s,at that time I drove for a company called Marbello and Durus,who were originally an Italian company who specialised in Terrazzo tile and granite flooring.I used to fuel up have the lorry serviced at Kennings garage by Shire Oak lights,they also supplied my new BMC lorry in 1964.Anyway,back to the cafe,it had coach seats instead of wooden chairs,which were more comfortable.If I remember correctly,Sam’s daughter used to serve the customers while he did the cooking.
    I also used Bert’s cafe,I distinctly remember him saying one morning that he was going in hospital and saying “I don’t think I will come out”,he didn’t I think he had cancer.Smashing fella,I can picture him now.tall with greying waivy hair.

  10. Elaine Venables formerly Boulton says:

    I remember Sams café and the bluebell wood

  11. Was Sam’s cafe our mom. Maz Neville worked there late 60s early 70s can same.ber the story she used to tell about frying mushrooms and lots of little bugs came out and she was told to still serve mushrooms. I have never eaten a mushroom

  12. Doug Hulett says:

    I used to work for the guy who bought this place and closed it. He was from Stonell and as I recall he wanted to develop the land but because of an access issue planning turned him down. Long time ago and details a little fuzzy.

  13. Gary Lawrence says:

    We moved into 194 chester road, must have been mid 70’s. Mum sent us down to get some milk when we first moved in. The greasy guy behind the counter took one look at us and said, does this look like a paki shop. That’s stayed with me for 30 years !

  14. Pingback: Saved by the bluebell – BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  15. aerreg says:

    just a bit of aer regis gobly goo the word greesy lil originated years ago it was the name given to the old hollies cafe on the watling street just before gailey island before we ever heard of motorways and was an oasis to lorry drivers all over the country god bless

  16. John Hubbard says:

    Yes I remember the cafe
    The owner in the late 70s/80s was a Mike Cooper he was a partner in Walsall Brake, used to live opposite Stonnal Church .
    I can remember Muriel Bowen wife of the late Cliff Bowen brother of Brian Bowen who was a partner in Bowmer Transport will Allen Murrall.

    • Doug Hulett says:

      That’s the bloke. I used to work at Walsall Brake when he bought the cafe. I believe it was still running then for a short while.

  17. Christine says:

    When we moved into our house 1971 our neighbour had moved from running a transport cafe along the Chester Road, I always assumed it was this one. Their names were Jack and I think Doreen Hastilow and their daughter Carol. Not sure of her Christian name as everyone called her Mrs H. They had a very large brick built kennel where an Alsatian lived who we were told was their guard dog. I think Jack had a relative who owned the garage there as well.

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