THE chairman of Wessex's Variety Children's Charity has paid tribute to disc jockey Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart, who died at the weekend.

Friends of the former BBC Radio DJ and Crackerjack presenter said he'd died in hospital in Bournemouth, aged 74, just days after suffering a stroke.

Frances Cornelius, Wessex region chairman of Variety the Children's Charity, told the Echo: "He was a really great family friend, he's been a fantastic supporter of our charity for 30 or 40 years.

"He compered many of our events over the years, he was a great auctioneer, very funny. I am just going to miss him terribly. It is so sad."

Stewart was one of the first DJs at Radio One when it launched in 1967.

The following year he began presenting the children's show Junior Choice, which became his trademark radio show.

Stewart presented a Christmas edition of Junior Choice for BBC Radio Two in 2015.

On television, Devon-born Stewart was best known for children's favourite Crackerjack. He hosted the show from 1973 to 1979.

He also supported a range of local Dorset charities, including Variety and The Wessex Autistic Society, the RNLI. He gave up free time to visit many local schools and to open dozens of charity events over the years.

Bob Shennan, director of BBC Music, said in a statement: "Everyone at Radio 2 is extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart.

"Ed has been a stalwart of popular music broadcasting for many years and over the past few Christmases, he brought back Junior Choice to the delight of millions of loyal listeners.

"We are thinking of Ed and his family at this difficult time."

Stewart's fellow DJ from his early days on pirate radio, Bournemouth-raised Tony Blackburn, who also went on to Radio 1, said he'd be missed.

Tony said: "A lovely guy, loved his golf and he loved playing the songs on Junior Choice.

"I think he'll probably be best remembered for Junior Choice because he did that programme, I think, particularly well.

"He was very, very good at that, and of course, on television."

Meanwhile, Stewart's former brother-in-law, Adriano Henney, tweeted to say "Fun guy-Huge loss".

Presenter David Hamilton also paid tribute. Speaking on BBC News he said: "Like all of us, radio was his first live. But he also did very well on television. He was one of the hosts of Crackerjack for a long time, he did Top of The Pops and he had his own programme."

Stewart had been due to present a Magic of Mantovani concert at the Pavilion in April. He had a vast knowledge of the music of Mantovani, whose cascading strings were popular on the radio when he was a teenager.

Paul Barrett of Canford Cliffs, founder of the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra, said: “I am devastated to hear that Ed has died. He was such a lovely, talented man and a good friend. 

“I saw him just before Christmas and he was so excited and enthusiastic about the forthcoming concert."