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13 November 2014

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You are in: Leicester > History > Local History > Leicester's Largest Son

Daniel Lambert

Daniel Lambert

Leicester's Largest Son

Daniel Lambert was, at the time of his death, the heaviest man around! The Leicester man still retains a place in the Guinness Book of Records for his size.

Daniel Lambert was born in Leicester on 13 March 1770 into a family of gamekeepers, huntsmen and field sportsmen.

By the time of his death 39 years later he weighed a massive 53 stones and his waist measured in at over nine foot.

While Daniel may have been ridiculed for his vast size if he's been around now, back in Georgian times he was celebrated as a British Champion and the pride of Leicester.


Daniel had a hunting background

Listen: Daniel Lambert's Life

BBC Leicester's Julie Mayer visited the Newarke Houses, where many of Daniel's possessions still reside, to talk to the museum's curator Philip French...

Daniel Lambert was born in Leicester on 13 March 1770 into a family of gamekeepers, huntsmen and field sportsmen.

Throughout his boyhood, Daniel was active, healthy, athletic - and slim. In fact, he was an excellent swimmers from the age of eight and taught many other children to swim in the River Soar.

His family background also meant he was a keen rider, spending much of his time galloping around the rural landscape surrounding Leicester.

The history books tell of a time when, whilst out riding one day, he came across a wild bear which he punched to the ground, causing her to roar out in pain and flee.

In 1791, at the age of 21, Daniel took over from his father as the Keeper of Leicester's House of Correction on Highcross Street.

Before long he'd earned himself a reputation as a benevolent jailer who took great care of his inmates' welfare, introducing a raft of improvements to the city prison which won him the respect of those behind bars as well as prison reformers of the time.

Although this was the making of his career, it may have been the undoing of his health.

Julie Mayer in Daniel Lambert's chair

Julie Mayer in Daniel Lambert's chair

A Growing Lad

In spite of not being a drinker or a big eater, within 11 years of taking up the job, he tipped the scales at a whopping 32 stone, with his office job blamed for his huge weight gain.

Philip French commented that it is believed he may also have had a medical condition that caused his weight.

By the time he hit his late thirties he had swelled to nearly 53 stone, could no longer climb the stairs and special arrangements had to be made when he travelled.

Just to finally set it in your mind, Julie Mayer estimates that one Daniel Lambert equals seven of her!

In 1806 the Stamford Mercury reported that Daniel was having a carriage made specifically to transport him to London where he intended to exhibit himself as a natural curiosity.

He ended his days living in his London apartments where people would pay a shilling just to come and see him.

Newarke Houses Museum

Newarke Houses Museum

The Legend

When he finally died at the age of 39, the measurement around his calf was three foot one inch and his waist was a massive nine foot and four inches.

He died at an inn in Stamford and his body had to taken out of the building by removing a wall.

His coffin was built on wheels and it took more than 20 men to lower it into his grave.

During his life he had become quite a personality, and was used in a cartoon as an emblem for a hearty Britain against the threat of Napoleon.

Historians from Leicester have even reported that a waxwork of Daniel was doing the rounds in American museums not long after his death - such was his popularity!

It seems that the interest around Daniel is still strong, with a number of people visiting the Newarke Houses just to learn more about the larger than life character.

The museum has on display many of his possessions including a selection of made-to-measure clothes and a large chair.

Find out more about Newarke Houses Museum, including visiting times...

last updated: 08/07/2009 at 14:37
created: 23/06/2009

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