The era of classic British transport cafes is often romanticized on this side of the pond and for good reason. The roadside eateries were among the few places where the original Ton-Up boys and girls could congregate in a very uptight mid-century England and the high-speed antics that took place on the adjacent roads are the stuff of legend. Most of the era’s greatest roadracers got their start challenging their mates to burn-ups launched out of these charismatic greasy spoon joints, from Dave Croxford to Rex Butcher and countless others. Visiting places like Squires Coffee Bar and London’s Ace Cafe are all part of exploring the rich history of custom speedbikes, and motorcycling’s history is all the better for them. That some of these glass-walled diners have survived in constant use for over half a century is amazing in itself- how many Stuckey’s or Howard Johnson’s are still operating here in the US after that long? Unfortunately, our chief photographer Simon Everett recently hipped us to the fact that one of the oldest and most beloved transport cafes is soon to bite the dust. Jacks Hill cafe, which has been serving up teas and chips to truckers, bikers and all manner of road-weary travelers since the 1940s. The decorative structure, known far and wide for its unique peaked roof resembling a church steeple, was located along the A5 highway not far from the Triumph assembly plant in Hinckley, Leicestershire. A posting by the cafe’s owners stated:
“It is with deep regret that we must announce the closing of Jacks Hill Cafe with immediate effect. Whilst we have worked relentlessly to steer the Business through Road Closures, the Pandemic, erratic food supplies and Utilities price increases, both the financial impact coupled with staff shortages has left us with no option but to close.
The truck park will stay open, providing secure overnight parking and toilet/shower facilities, sadly no food will be available on site. However there are local takeaway’s, etc. that deliver to site.”
Many a cafe racer has fond memories of time spent chatting bikes at Jack’s Hill Cafe and after visiting the place with Everett and Chicago Ton-Up Club honcho Larry Fletcher a few years back, I’ll always remember its timeless, well-worn ambiance, like a stop on the roadrace scene in “The Leatherboys.” We ran a Scrapbook feature on one of the reunions that frequently took place at Jack’s Hill in issue #23 and though it’s no longer available, try unearthing one of eBay- it’s well worth the trouble. Not many of the original cafes still exist, so if you’ve visiting the UK, make a point of stopping by for a cuppa and a few songs on the jukebox- you won’t regret it.