Giant headstone for King of Sheffield traveller built without permission

A 37-tonne Italian marble memorial with a solar-powered jukebox and two life-size statues of the deceased was apparently built without permission.

The memorial to patriarch traveller William Collins, the ‘King of Sheffield’, who died in Spain in 2020, also has its own CCTV system, and is thought to have been erected a week ago in Sheffield's Shiregreen Cemetery.

Sheffield City Council said it had specific rules about the building of memorials to "ensure fairness" and it was considering its "next steps" concerning the 49-year-old's final resting place.

But the 'King's' memorial has been a hit on TikTok, where it has gone viral, gaining more than five million views in total.

Mr Collins, a bare-knuckle boxer, was born in Athlone in County Westmeath, Ireland, hence the four Irish tricolours adorning the monument.

One of 16 children, Willy was the patriarch of the Collins family and had around 400 nieces and nephews, The Sheffield Star reported.

The memorial states that he died in Majorca on 7 July 2020, after collapsing.

Official guidlines state that memorials should be no thicker than 3ins (75mm) thick and no taller than 4.4ft (1.35m), with applicants required to provide details including material and proposed inscriptions before permission is given.

Councillor Alison Teal, executive member for sustainable neighbourhoods, wellbeing, parks and leisure, said: "This memorial was built without permission and we are currently considering our next steps.

"We understand memorials are deeply personal, however we must have rules in place to ensure fairness."

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One visitor to the cemetery, Mandy Stratford, said she had seen the memorial while going to a loved one's grave and was aware people were travelling to the cemetery "just to have a look" at it.

"I think it's beautiful. It doesn't offend me at all and I think it'd be a shame if they did take it down," she said.

"I don't think it's offending anybody in the position it's in. If it was in the middle near everyone's loved ones I could understand it."

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

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“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.”

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