Legend of Tamworth’s business and sporting worlds dies at 91

The funeral of one of Tamworth’s best-known business and sporting personalities takes place on March 18, 2021.

A hugely popular figure, William Alan Webb was a giant achiever in life with a stature to match. He first came to prominence in the town as a bookmaker and went on to gain legendary status in the local football, golf and bowling communities.

Alan Webb who has died at the age of 91.
Alan Webb who has died at the age of 91.

Sporting his trademark XXL suits, dickie bow and braces, he built up a chain of 15 betting shops around the Tamworth area, well before Joe Coral and William Hill moved in.

Known as Alan to friends and family, he passed away peacefully at Good Hope Hospital at the age of 91 on February 18, 2021. His funeral is being arranged by Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service, but because of Covid restrictions the service at Fradley Crematorium is a family only affair.

However, anybody wishing to pay their final respects to Alan is invited to take part in a special outdoor tribute when the funeral cortege leaves his home in Cale Close, Kettlebrook at 10.30am.

“We would love people in the neighbourhood to come out with a piece of sporting equipment or memorabilia to wave in his honour while, of course, respecting social distancing,” said his son Ian.

“That would be a very apt gesture for him and hopefully when the restrictions ease l we will be able to celebrate his life properly, possibly at the family home where he has lived for the past 60 years.”

Although he went on to achieve considerable success, Alan was proud of his humble roots. He was born on December 28, 1929 in the small mining village of Birchmoor and left school at 14 to become a paper boy. He joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 18 after being deemed ‘too tall’ for the RAF and having ‘too wide a grin’ for the Army.

Stationed in Malta, his job as Safety Equipment Rating was to stitch and pack parachutes. As a sideline, using offcuts and cast-offs, he would make duffel bags and sell them to colleagues. It marked the start of an impressive entrepreneurial career.

On leaving the Navy, Alan worked as a spot welder for the Reliant Motor Company and took on a second job as a bookie’s runner. As a ‘big bloke,’ he was trusted to run to the local bookmaker with the betting cash secured in a clock bag. If that was not enough, his third job was working for himself as a photographer, developing his pictures in his pantry-cum-darkroom.

When the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act legalised additional forms of gambling, Alan wasted no time in capitalising on the opportunity. His first betting shop was in small, backstreet premises off Long Street, Dordon and proved to be an enormous success. It was soon followed by a sprinkling of shops in places including Kettlebrook, Polesworth, Glascote, Fazeley, as well as Tamworth town centre, Atherstone, Lichfield and Aston.

Alan was joined by his brother-in-law John Brayshaw and found roles for his sister, nieces, and other relatives and friends in the business.

Much of his spare time was dedicated to sport. He played golf for many years at Drayton Manor and then Whittington Heath Golf Club.

“With his big, strong arms, he only needed a three-quarter backswing, but he got to a single-figure handicap and became club president,” said Ian.

“He was also the only man to become club captain twice.”

Football was another lifelong passion and Alan became a director of Tamworth Football Club in March 1973, helping to put the struggling Lambs back on the path to success.

A lifelong supporter of Aston Villa, he was appointed by chairman Doug Ellis to take charge of the club’s development association.

Lifelong Villa fan Alan gets his hands on the European Cup.
Lifelong Villa fan Alan gets his hands on the European Cup.

“There was no Sky TV funding in those days and his brief was to raise money through promotions and merchandise sales,” added Ian.

“He is credited with pioneering the now ubiquitous scratch cards in football which he first came across on holiday in Florida.”

Despite being offered a salary, Alan refused to receive a penny in payment such was his love for the club. His family say that was typical of his generosity and remember him constantly sharing his good luck with relatives and friends.

“He even gave away his camera gear to a friend who went on to make a career in photography and gave many other people their ‘first break’ too,” Ian recalled.

“Use your head, bet with Webb’ was the strapline for his betting business and you could say he used his head very well when he sold several shops to the likes of Ladbrokes and William Hill in the late 1980s.”

With more leisure time at his disposal, Alan then developed Lynne’s Gift Shop in Tamworth and opened a couple of local cafes. He also made fancy belts and fashion items in his garage. He bought and sold secondhand jewellery and dabbled in antiques.

The father-of-two played racket sports throughout his life, his 6 ft 3 ins and 18-stone frame giving him a powerful presence on court. However, after a couple of knee replacements he decided to concentrate on a gentler, but no less competitive sport – bowls.

Using his drive and determination, Alan helped set up Tame Anker Bowls Club in the Castle Grounds, then the only flat green bowling club in Staffordshire. He also persuaded Warwickshire County Indoor Bowls Association, where he was to become president, to allow Tame Anker and Tamworth Indoor Bowls Club into its association – despite it being in Staffordshire!

As a result, Tamworth bowlers were able to compete both regionally and nationally. He went on to skip a Men’s Four which competed in the national finals in Worthing.

In 1989, Alan played a major role in setting up Tamworth Indoor Bowls Club in Eagle Drive, Amington. He became the club’s director and chief executive until his reluctant retirement in 2018, when he was made lifetime president. The club expanded rapidly under his stewardship but was destroyed by fire in February 1991.

The larger-than-life character led a fundraising drive which brought the club back to life. The golden phoenix in the club’s logo, as well as the reported club reserves of around £500,000 in 2019, stand as testament to his success. The man with the Midas touch had done it again.

Alan and his wife Velda
Alan and his wife Velda.

The Herald covered Alan’s diamond wedding in 2008 when he was asked what his best decision was in life. Without hesitation he said it was marrying his dear wife Velda who died in 2013. She, in turn, described him as her very own ‘gentle giant.’

Alan also leaves a daughter Lynne, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


Glen Speak-

Glen Speak M.B.I.E. General Manager of Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors which was established in 1905. All members abide by the NAFD Funeral Promise.

“By choosing us, you can be assured that the funeral is a fitting farewell to your loved one at a price you are comfortable with, that we will treat you and your loved one with respect at all times, and act with integrity. We will seek to fulfil any special wishes and requests.”

Scroll to Top