Wheelers Rest and Packham Brothers Motor Garage

Enterprise on Bread and Cheese Hill

Early last century Ann Packham, wife of George Packham, began catering for passing traffic by placing a table by the roadside on Bread and Cheese Hill, serving squash to thirsty travellers. It was a time for enterprise. Plotlanders were taking up the land on offer in south-east Essex to escape the pressure of London and people became more mobile, cycling and motoring. By 1907 over 60,000 motorcars were registered in Britain. The American Ford Motor Company opened a car factory at Trafford Park, Manchester in 1911 and was producing 3,000 Model Ts a year.

Ann Packham’s Wheelers Rest (also known as Lodge House) on the corner of Rhoda Road and London Road (Jarvis Hill), became a general grocers and tobacconists; also offering a tearoom, bed & breakfast and stabling, thus catering for the old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage travellers as well as the newfangled fad of cycling enthusiasts and the motor car devotees. Waring & Gillows’ horse drawn pantechnicons bringing furniture from London to Southend used to break their journey here, taking advantage of the bed and breakfast and stabling facilities.

Ann’s eldest son Sidney left school at Benfleet’s School Lane aged fourteen and was apprenticed to a jeweller in Southend. At seventeen he joined the Royal Flying Corps. At the end of hostilities he returned to build his garage on Bread and Cheese Hill. The bricks came by horse and cart from Stanford-le-Hope, where his uncle and the rest of the James family had their businesses. A bungalow, built next door for the grand sum of £255, followed on his marriage to Annie Gullett, where they continued to live after the birth of son Philip and daughter Margaret.

Around 1923, Sidney Packham’s enterprise included the operation of two buses on behalf of Bowers Gifford Golf Club to ferry golfers between the club and railway station at South Benfleet in addition to other venues. The dark blue buses were based on the Model T Ford. Brother George was one of the drivers. The garage also offered the first hydraulic lift in the area. Brother Harold had his own paraffin round.

(Photographs courtesy of Philip Packham)

Click here to see a more recent picture of Philip Packham.

The Wheelers Rest (also Lodge House) at the corner of Rhoda Road, looking east up Bread and Cheese Hill, offering 'Teas' c.1910
Philip Packham
The Wheelers Rest (also known as Lodge House) c.1937: 'Mrs. A. Packham. Caterers. Est. 1910. Bread and Cheese Hill.' Tea was 'freshly made for each customer'. All the big names in advertising are present, including Coca Cola. In the foreground Mr and Mrs Drinkwater. Forest House (Hotel/Convalescent Home) can just be seen to the left above the garage. The roof contained a pigeon loft. Both Forest House in Catherine Road and The Wheelers Rest on the corner of Rhoda Road and the A13 have survived.
Philip Packham
Campers from the East End of London have put up their tents behind Wheelers Rest on the fringe of rustic Thundersley. They were catered for by Mrs Ann Packham and her daughter Cissie (c.1910).
Philip Packham
1923. Sidney Packham with one of the two dark blue buses he operated on behalf of Bowers Gifford Golf Club in 1923. Brother George is on the right.
Philip Packham
Packham Bros. Garage in the 1920s. Sidney Packham (with a customer?) stands in the open door and brother George by the Bowers Gifford Golf Club bus. Pratt's Motor Oil is for sale on the forecourt.
Philip Packham
1935-6. The Packham Brothers Garage on Bread and Cheese Hill, with owner Sidney Packham on left, next to his son Philip aged three or four years, brother George in white overalls and brother Harold by the truck on the right. In the foreground an Esso petrol pump.
Philip Packham
1935-6. The Packham Brothers Garage from the east, showing Sidney's bungalow with its white picket fence. Lined up for the picture are from left, George, young Philip and father Sidney and Harold.
Philip Packham
In Kiln Road, near today's Total petrol station opposite Glenmere Road stood Daisy Bungalow, known as Daisy Stores Grocers. Proprietor was Mrs Dorcas Gullett.
Philip Packham
Wrong numbers? An accident on Bread and Cheese Hill about 1920 broke a heavily wire-connected telegraph post in half and deposited it precariously held up a little further down the road.
Philip Packham

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  • My Grandad and Nan had Hilltop Service Station from 1957-1974 when it was compulsory bought by the council for the widening of Bread and Cheese Hill. This never happened and years later Wheeler’s cafe then restaurant was there. Today it’s Wheeler’s Indian.

    By Tracey Gerrard (23/01/2021)
  • Information request.
    My father lived in Forest House, Bread and Cheese Hill as a child, probably in the 1920s or 30s. Any information about it would be much appreciated

    By Jo Webb (29/12/2020)
  • Is that what became Hilltop Garage?
    I used to own that but sold it on to the current owner.

    {Ed: we hope other readers can help, possibly it was a different garage?}

    By Terry Ive (01/03/2019)
  • Remember the garage and Rest house well, used to stop for a lemonade on my cycle trips from Hadleigh in the 1930s

    By Ian Hawks (08/06/2011)

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