Family pays tribute to Spennymoor fireplace magnate

TRIBUTES have been paid to a successful businessman who made his fortune making and selling fireplaces.

Self-made millionaire John Willetts, of John Willetts Fireplaces, based in Spennymoor, County Durham, died on Friday, February 27, at the age of 67. A former lorry driver, Mr Willetts started the business in the early 1970s after he was made redundant from New Equipment Steel Style (Ness).

Self-made millionaire John Willetts, of John Willetts FireplacesOver the years he expanded into kitchen worktops and the flourishing family firm now employs more than 20 people, has an outlet in Gateshead and counts celebrities, including comedians, pop stars and premiership footballers, among its customers. The grandfather-of-four also enjoyed success as property developer and the family owns flats in Spennymoor and elsewhere in the county.

Mr Willetts was born in Kelloe but his parents moved to Spennymoor when he was a baby and he later attended North Road School in the town. He met his wife Anne, also from Spennymoor, in his early twenties and the couple had two children, David Willetts, 37, and Hannah Moult, 34, who are both employed in the family firm. In 1984, the family moved to the nearby village of Hett, where Mr Willetts owned a small farm and kept highland cattle.

Mrs Moult said: “He loved being outdoors and enjoyed gardening and shooting when he had time. David played rugby for England until he was 21 and we used to go all over to watch him play and my dad loved that.” Mrs Moult described her father as a “big character” who was passionate about his business but always had time for his friends and family.

“He and my mum liked to go out and socialise and my dad was always the life and soul of the party,” she said. “He liked to have a laugh and joke with everyone. The business was very important to him. It was his baby and he Along with his wife and children, he leaves behind a large familyliked to be in control. When he became poorly and had to stop working he found it very hard.”

Mr Willetts was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 and bravely fought off the illness but sadly it returned.

Along with his wife and children, he leaves behind a large family including his younger sisters, Elizabeth and Ellen, grandchildren, Kate, Solomon, James and Matilda, and many nieces and nephews.

His funeral takes place at St Bartholomew’s Church in Sunderland Bridge, near Croxdale, on Saturday, March 7, at 11am.

(See the original story featured in the Northern Echo here)




Fields with * are required.