Blue Plaque honouring champion boxer Sir Henry Cooper is first commemoration in Wembley for 40 years
PUBLISHED: 11:32 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 19:13 21 November 2018
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Wembley has received its second Blue Plaque – its first in 40 years - honouring a heavyweight boxing champion thanks to the efforts of a local man.
A plaque honouring Sir Henry Cooper OBE, a British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion, was mounted above his former shop in Ealing Road on November 12.
Famous for his boxing matches in the borough, Sir Henry lived in Ledway Drive between 1960 and 1975, and ran his ‘Henry Cooper, Fruiterer & Greengrocer’ business from 1965 to 1968.
Tony Royden, who lives in St John’s Road, stumbled upon a photograph of him and his brother Laurence Kothari standing outside Sir Henry’s shop in 1966 and wondered why Sir Henry was not commemorated in the borough.
He said: “When I started making enquiries I was astonished by two things: Wembley had only one Blue Plaque to its name, which I still can’t believe.
Secondly, that one Blue Plaque was awarded to Wembley in 1978 – 40 years ago commemorating Arthur Lucan best known as Old Mother Riley.
“Keith Moon, a drummer with The Who grew up just around the corner from Sir Henry’s shop, Ginger Baker from Cream lived in Wembley, as did Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.
“Every time I speak to someone they mention someone else. Wembley’s a historic place.”
Sir Henry lived with his wife and two sons in Wembley during the 60s, and was still fighting at the top of his game when, on November 9 1965, he opened his shop on the corner of Ealing Road and Wembley High Road.
Tony, a composer and screenwriter, added: “When I was about six-years-old my mother took me inside the shop where Henry Cooper was working and said: ‘My son would really love to shake your hand’.
“This enormous figure of a man bent over, shook my hand and gave me a big smile. I didn’t know who it was. Only later thinking back it was probably my mother wanted to meet him and she was just too embarrassed to ask. After that meeting I followed everything he did, all his career.”
Tony rang The Heritage Foundation and by chance spoke to a big boxing fan and things “snowballed from there”.
Francis Henry, from Daniel’s Estate Agent volunteered to fund it and he called Sir Henry’s two sons who helped with the wording of the plaque.
“I’ve been blown away by the outpouring of support I’ve received. I think it says a lot about Sir Henry and how much he was loved as a boxer and as a person.”