A FAMILY has paid tribute to a much-loved “gentle giant” whose “charm and warmth lit up any room”.

Colin Cropley, known and loved locally for his wine and spirits business The Porterage Co, died suddenly aged 49 at his home in Stainton.

He has been described by his family as a “very much loved husband, father, son, brother and friend to many” who they said will be forever missed.

Mr Cropley was known to many in the hospitality industry through his links with and from supplying hotels, restaurants and bars across Cumbria and beyond.

He was considered to be one of the county’s leading wine experts.

The well-respected wine merchant set up The Porterage Co in 2010, which has stores in Windermere and Greenodd, and had previously worked for Classic Drinks and Coca Cola.

He also served as an air engineer mechanic in the Royal Navy from 1991 to 1998.

The family owned the Armadale Hotel at Arrad Foot from 2003 until they sold it in 2013.

His family said: "He was a gentle giant who had time for everyone. Colin’s entertaining stories kept those who knew him laughing, and his charm and warmth lit up any room he was in”.

As an entrepreneur and well-liked and respected businessman, his passion for wine and spirits, and his expertise and knowledge on the subject, enthused all he met.

As a youngster he attended Hartford High School in Cheshire and went on to complete a HND in Building Studies at Coventry Polytechnic where he met his wife Judy.

His wife Judy said: “Losing my husband so suddenly has completely devastated our family.

“Colin and I met at university in Coventry and in October we would have been celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.

“We have lived in Cumbria for 15 years, raised our three wonderful girls here and set up our business to enjoy the community spirit this area offers and its close proximity to the Lake District.

“With the help of our much valued team I will be carrying on Colin’s legacy and taking over the day to day running of The Porterage Co.

“We thank you for your continued support.”

For friends and customers who would like to attend the details of Mr Cropley’s funeral will be confirmed within the coming days.