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Daniel Lambert, favourite of Leicester, the heaviest man in the world.

Daniel Lambert

Daniel Lambert

Who was Daniel Lambert

Daniel Lambert was for many years thought of as the biggest man in the world. At his heaviest he weighed 52 stone 11 pounds, the weight of four average sized modern men.

Daniel Lambert was born in Leicester, a city in the centre of England, on 13th March 1770. At an early age he was apprenticed to an engraver in Birmingham but the firm declined and he returned home without completing his apprenticeship, to work with his father as Assistant Keeper of the Bridewell. The Bridewell was a corrective prison which also fulfilled a workhouse function.

He was huge

As he aged into his 20's Daniel Lambert grew in girth. He was a tall man for the period 5foot eleven inches and his measurements were immense. His waist was 2.84 metres and six men would fit into his waistcoat. His calf was 94cm more like a waist size. He was huge in a period where malnutrition meant that obesity was only a problem amongst the very rich. Lambert reputedly ate only one meal per day; perhaps it was huge quantities and an unregulated metabolism with an under active thyroid that caused his huge girth.

Cartoon of Daniel Lambert having dinner with Napoleon

Cartoon of Daniel Lambert having dinner with Napoleon

The two largest men in England

The two largest men in England

Prodigy of Nature

Daniel Lambert left the Bridewell and took up his passion of breeding and selling hunting dogs. He augmented his income by touring the country as a public exhibit. At one point he kept a house in London charging the gentry admission to meet him and gaze at his bulk. He was feted because of his size and regarded as a "prodigy of Nature". Lambert became a celebrity, being characterised favourably in the press. At the time of the Napoleonic wars, Lambert was used to characterise the achievements of a large and strong British Empire against a skinny, spindly Napoleon.

Lambert was presented to King George III as a unique human being. His huge bulk was painted by contemporary artists and he was referred to in novels by Herman Melville and William Thackery, including "Vanity Fair" and "Barry Lyndon". He was also mentioned in the writings of Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle.

Daniel Lambert's gravestone

Daniel Lambert's gravestone

The stories that grew around Daniel Lambert

As with all matters that are larger than life, myths grew up around Daniel Lambert, emphasising his kindness and abilities owing to his great size.

Daniel and the Bear

This is a story of Daniel meeting some entertainers outside his fathers house. They had with them dancing bears which were muzzled for the safety of the public. One of Daniel's dogs ran towards a bear and bit it causing the bear to fight back. Daniel intervened in order to save his dog and the entertainer was so incensed that he took the muzzle off the bear. Myth has it that Daniel fought with the bear and knocked the bear down cold with his own hands.

Daniel Swimming

Despite being so large Daniel Lambert was regarded as being a keen swimmer, swimming as often as possible in the nearby River Soar. There are stories that he showed great kindness in teaching the local children to swim. The myth is that he could swim across the river carrying two men on his back.

Daniel the Gaoler

Daniel was regarded as an efficient but kind man. He ensured that the men were able to exercise, were fed and kept the prison clean. There are stories that Lambert tried to help prisoners at their trial and often when released from prison they cried because they were leaving his company.

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A day at the races

Daniel Lambert went to Stamford, some 40 miles away from Leicester to attend the races. It was the 21st June 1809 and he was aged 39 years. Whilst staying at the Waggon and Horses Inn in the town, he died. In order to remove his body for burial a window and part of the wall had to be removed. He was buried in Stamford and it took 20 men to lower his coffin into the grave.

So ended the life of the heaviest man in the world, a title he was to retain for many years after his death. What is so amazing to me is that a man of his bulk was able to travel, to swim and to get out and about meeting people rather than remaining housebound dependant on the goodwill of family and friends.


CASE1WORKER (author) from UNITED KINGDOM on January 06, 2012:

James Watkins- Thank you for your visit- This is one of those stories, well known in the town it orginated in- there is even a museum exhhibition, yet little known elsewhere. Sometimes they make the most interesting stories. Thankyou for your visit.

James A Watkins from Chicago on January 03, 2012:

Wow! What a story. I am glad I came across this little gem. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you!

CASE1WORKER (author) from UNITED KINGDOM on May 28, 2011:

epigramman- thanks for stopping by- yes I love history and writing but the research is the best bit! I do like cats- Bagera sits on my profile his bro Tiggy is a bit camera shy hence his non appearance but he takes an inactive part in my work - sleeps mostly but hey....

epigramman on May 28, 2011: very interesting are your hubs - chock full of great history and your own hard work putting them all together as a labor of love and appreciated by yours truly .... you must be a cat lover too as I can see - lol - other hubbers which should grab your attention and follow similar paths as you are: HELLO HELLO, RADIOGUY and DRBJ ...... you are in such very fine company my friend ......

CASE1WORKER (author) from UNITED KINGDOM on May 13, 2011:

Sorry, I have not- I believe this is partly a comic painting to accentuate Lambert's great size. Ifyou are ever in Leicester there is a small exhibition at the Newarke Houses. Good luck with your play ! We were boating on the River Soar last weekend and I was trying to imagine Lambert with his great girth swimming in the river- he must have been a very strong man.

Andrew Scattergood on May 12, 2011:

Hi, any idea who the other large man is in the painting of 'The Two Largest Men In England'?

Great info by the way. I've written a play called Daniel Lambert's Trousers because of the influence he's had on me.


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