A KEY player in the East Lancashire cash and carry trade has been described as a "real character" after his death.

Stanley Astley, born and bred in Blackburn, died aged 85 last month at Royal Blackburn Hospital from heart problems and pneumonia.

The father of three, and husband to Joan for 63 years until his death, played a key role in the running of Fred Astley Ltd wholesale cash and carry company in the 1960s and beyond.

Stanley trained as a buyer but became managing director at the age of 27 when the family set up a cash and carry company in 1959 in Weir Street.

The company provided goods to retail shops and businesses throughout East Lancashire and Stanley was well known in the community.

His youngest son Trevor Astley, 56, said: "He was a remarkable man and his business mind was phenomenal.

"He loved his family and was a big family man, and passionate about business. He was always forward thinking and a real character.

"He was just all round extremely active. He loved his sports.

"He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him."

The grandfather of eight went to St Silas's Junior School and later Blackburn Technical and Grammar School.

For centuries, the Astley family were farmers on Hoghton Towers land, until Stanley's grandfather Fred started as a provender merchant to the local farming community, setting up Fred Astley & Sons in 1922.

The cash and carry business was run by Stanley and his brothers Brian and Peter, who were later joined by their brothers David and Clive after they finished school.

In the early '60s, Stanley formed an association with Lawrence Batley's Halifax cash and carry and together they went on to form a national group of wholesale grocers under the banner of the "Big N" group, and later the Target group. Stanley acted as chairman for many of the years the group was active.

From the late 1960s the business expanded and at one point four cash and carry warehouses were operating across Lancashire, in Blackburn, Burnley, Preston and Oldham.

After the cash and carry business was sold out in 1987, Fred Astley Ltd went into property development and management.

Stanley continued as chairman of Fred Astley Ltd until his death.

A keen sportsman and former Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder, Stanley played cricket for East Lancs "A" team and Leamington Road Baptist Church.

He was also an accomplished snooker player and played for the church in the town's snooker league, even getting to play former world champion John Spencer in his prime in an exhibition match in Blackburn.

Stanley dedicated much time to voluntary service in the community in his later years, and served as deacon of Leamington Road Baptist Church and chairman of the church management committee for many years.