Fond memories of the man behind Northamptonshire’s Skew Bridge site

Mr Wills at the Rushden Lakes site
Mr Wills at the Rushden Lakes site

The man who turned Rushden’s Skew Bridge into a thriving social hub has died at the age of 93.

John Wills used to own the gravel pits at the site just off the A45 at Rushden and he introduced water skiing there as well as the ski slope.

John Wills

John Wills

Membership at the clubhouse was sought after, with a strict admissions process to go through before new members were approved.

But after Mr Wills sold the site, it was taken on by a succession of different people before becoming derelict.

When the multi-million-pound Rushden Lakes plans for the site were approved, the Northants Telegraph spoke to Mr Wills about his time at Skew Bridge.

Speaking in July 2014, he said: “I hope this new development could be the one.”

LXB, the developers behind the scheme, invited Mr Wills to visit the site when groundworks started in 2014.

He has also been taken past the site on several occasions to see the work progressing, but sadly he won’t see the major retail and leisure development completed after his death last Friday.

Mr Wills, who had five daughters but is survived by four, had nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

His daughter Rachael Wilford said: “It’s such a shame he didn’t see Rushden Lakes completed.”

But she said they have lots of fond memories of the place which will be brought back to life with the new development.

Rachael, who described her dad as a ‘very shrewd businessman,’ added: “My father was a one-off, a real character, and we have all got very fond memories.

“He had a great sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye.”

Mr Wills was born in Ipswich but moved to Rushden at a young age.

His father owned Wills in High Street, where he worked for about two years, but he was not there for long because he wanted his own business.

Mr Wills lived in Higham Ferrers and Stanwick before raising his family in Sharnbrook, and he moved to Northampton in his 90th year.

He was a keen golfer and had a handicap of six.

All are welcome to attend Mr Wills’ funeral at midday on Wednesday, April 20, at the Edgar Newman Chapel at Kettering Crematorium.