Tributes paid at funeral of former deputy Wolverhampton Council leader Peter Bilson

The lasting legacy of a popular and long-serving Wolverhampton councillor was remembered as his funeral was held in the city.

Peter Bilson
Peter Bilson

Tributes poured in for Peter Bilson, the late deputy leader of Wolverhampton Council, who died on February 15 aged 66.

He served on the council for almost four decades after quitting his earlier career as a firefighter.

He went on to serve as city mayor before becoming deputy leader.

Mr Bilson, a grandfather, was laid to rest among family, friends and former colleagues as about 500 people packed into St Peter's Collegiate Church.

The funeral of former Wolverhampton mayor Peter Bilson at St Peter's Church, Wolverhampton

A guard of honour was given by ex-firefighters as Mr Bilson's coffin was carried from a hearse into the church.

Leading the tributes was his son James, who said: "My father was a Wolverhampton man through and through.

"His passion was for Wolverhampton. He loved Wolves and was a season ticket holder. He was Old Gold."

A guard of honour for the former deputy leader and mayor

One of his lasting legacies was his work on building social housing for Wolverhampton residents.

Mr Bilson was a firefighter serving in Wolverhampton and became a Labour councillor in 1982, when he was elected in Bushbury and Low Hill.

After new laws came in, he made the decision to leave the fire service and continued to stand as a councillor for 38 years.

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield believes he made the right choice.

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield and wife Paula arrive

"He got me into politics 30 years ago after knocking on my door," said Councillor Brookfield, who led the tributes.

"I was blown away by the friendship and support he gave me into a new extended family [in Low Hill]."

He continued: "Improving housing was his passion. He wanted all our residents to have a safe and warm place to call home.

"He cared deeply for people and they cared for him."

Staff and people associated with the Wolves stand to honour the former mayor

In the fire service he acquired the nickname "The Baron" as he used to sell "bits and bobs" to people on duty at his fire station, said Councillor Brookfield.

He added: "Rest now, the Low Hill baron."

Among the dignitaries to attend the funeral was the city's environment boss Councillor Steve Evans, radio presenter Dicky Dodd, Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley, former Wolverhampton Council leader Roger Lawrence and former city MP Rob Marris.

Away from life in politics, Mr Bilson was a family man who loved his grandchildren. He enjoyed holidays away to Ireland and North Wales.

Mr Bilson worked hard to help society in different areas of everyday life. Despite retiring from firefighting in the 80s - a career which began aged 16 - he later became chairman of the West Midlands Fire Service and Civil Defence Authority.

Mayor of Dudley David Stanley and Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley

He championed for the region's fire authority to use fire dogs in service, which was later copied by other services around the country.

Mr Bilson was also passionate about the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

He was chairman of the theatre's board of trustees in the 1990s and helped to gain public support for a fundraising campaign. This ultimately saw £10millon raised for a revamp of the theatre, said Adrian Jackson, the theatre's chief executive, who was leading tributes.

Last year, the theatre marked its 125th anniversary and Mr Bilson was one of two people to receive a prestigious lifetime award.

Mr Bilson's funeral reception was held at Molineux while a private ceremony for family and close friends was held at Bushbury Crematorium.

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