Huge Yorkshire headstone' weighing 37 tonnes may have to be torn down after council revealed it was built without permission

Britain's 'biggest headstone' weighing 37 tonnes and featuring a solar-powered jukebox may have to be torn down after it emerged today (March 20) it was built without permission.

The huge marble memorial was created to honour bare-knuckle boxer Willy, a dad-of-nine, who died aged 49 after collapsing while on holiday with his family in Majorca in July 2020.

It’s believed his family may have paid £200,000 to create the headstone at Shiregreen Cemetery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is crafted from solid Carrara marble.

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But today (March 20), council bosses revealed that the headstone had been erected “without permission”, meaning it may have to be demolished in the future.

The huge headstone was unveiled on Thursday (March 17)

Cllr Alison Teal, Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Wellbeing, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield council 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.”

The giant headstone, which was only unveiled four days ago (March 17), has depictions of Jesus Christ and biblical scenes, plus a solar-powered jukebox playing Big Willy's favourite tracks.

Mourners can also connect to the speaker through Bluetooth to play their own songs while looking at two life-sized statues of Big Willy's six-foot-two frame.

The headstone is lit with LED lights that change colour.

It's also under 24-hour CCTV monitoring, which his family can also access on their phones and use to ‘speak’ to him.

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But in her statement, Cllr Teal made it clear that there were strict planning laws governing the size and dimensions of graves.

She said: “All plans for grave memorials should be submitted to the council and must receive approval from Bereavement Services before they are erected.”

“For submissions, applicants must provide several details, including the material and size of the memorial, the proposed inscription and a sketch.

“A memorial should be less than 75mm thick and no taller than 1.35m from ground level.

She added: “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.”

Mary Collins, 30, Willy’s daughter, earlier dismissed suggestions that her family was concerned the headstone might be forcibly torn down in the future.

She had said: “We don’t worry as all the plots taken up, we own.

“We bought all the plots as it’s a family grave, so we’re not taking over more space than it should be.

“From behind, all of the plots are ours, but when someone dies the headstone starts at the head. We’re not worried, and it’s well-taken care of. We jet wash that road all the time. We have a lot of respect.

“My father’s grave is on a hill, so it has to be raised anyway. It’s in line with other headstones.”

But when asked to comment on the council’s new statement, she said a meeting had now been arranged with the local authority to discuss its future.

She said: “At the moment, there’s going to be some kind of meeting on Monday, so on Monday, we can comment further then.

“There are larger headstones in that graveyard than that. But there’s literally nothing more we can comment on until Monday when we have a meeting with the council.”

When the headstone was unveiled last Thursday (March 17), Mary had paid tribute to her dad saying he was “the best father in the world”.

She said: "It’s a sad day but it’s also a way to show the world what he meant to us.

"Our father was a family man and he means the world to us – he still means the world to us. We’ve given him everything we’ve got and he deserves it.”

One of 16 children, Willy was the patriarch of the Collins family. He apparently doted on his children and grandchildren and had around 400 nieces and nephews.

After his death, tributes flooded in from across the UK and his home city, where he was known by many as the ‘King of Sheffield’.

Mary said: “He loved Sheffield. He was as much a Sheffield man as he was an Irish man.

"If you met him once for five minutes you would never forget him.

"We now have somewhere where we can meet and talk about him and for others to remember him.

"He was my best friend. Not a day goes by where we all don’t think of him.”

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of Sheffield last August for Big Willy's funeral as his body was carried in a gold-plated casket, which was transported by a horse-pulled carriage.