£20,000 memorial to ‘King of Sheffield’ featuring custom statues and jukebox was built without planning permission says council

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The memorial of the traveller king and bare-knuckle boxer Willy Collins is believed to be the largest in Britain.

It was reportedly designed by the creator of Princess Margaret’s headstone alongside Collins’ sons.

Known as ‘Big Willy’ or the ‘King of Sheffield’, Collins died in July 2020 after collapsing during a family holiday to Port de Pollença, Majorca.

He was 49.

Willy Collin’s headstone was unveiled two years after his death last Thursday.

His August 2020 funeral was attended by hundreds and featured a convoy of six horses and 40 Rolls Royce cars.

Both the funeral and the £20,000 headstone was funded by donations from the local community.

The 37-tonne memorial took two weeks to erect and features a solar powered juke box, two life size statues of Willy, LED lights and biblical scenes.

The headstone also features 24 hour CCTV, after Mr Collins’ grave was vandalised shortly after his funeral.

Located at Shiregreen Cemetry, Mr Collins’ grave is surrounded by family members.

One of 16 children, Collins moved to Sheffield in the 1980s and became the patriarch of the family.

Over 22 years of marriage, Mr Collins had nine children, 16 grandchildren and it is believed he had up to 400 nieces and nephews.

The monument was unveiled last Thursday, almost two years after his death but council leaders say permission was not granted for the large memorial.

Alison Teal, Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure, said: “We are aware of a large memorial which has been erected in Shiregreen Cemetery. This memorial was built without permission and we are currently considering our next steps.

“Cemeteries are a place where people can come, pay their respects and visit loved ones who are no longer with us. We understand memorials are deeply personal, however we must have rules in place to ensure fairness.”

But the Collins family have defended the headstone, claiming they did have permission.

Willy’s widow, Kathleen Collins, said: “We own the land and we do have planning permission.

“The council haven’t contacted me or anyone from the family to raise any concerns. If they do have any issue with it they should contact us directly.

“It’s just because it’s all over the media and there’s a lot of hate that this is happening.

“They watched it getting built every day without saying anything, and it wasn’t done in a day. It took two weeks to get finished.”

Kathleen also has a viral TikTok account where she pays tribute to her late husband.

Her videos have reached up to 72 thousand people and has been met with both admiration and criticism.

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