Daniel Lambert (1770-1809)
Born on 13th March 1770, Daniel Lambert weighed a massive 53 stone when he died on 21st June 1809. By the time of his death, at the age of 39, Daniel Lambert was the heaviest man in England. He was regarded as a national celebrity and someone of whom Leicester was extremely proud.
As a young man Daniel was described as fit and athletic and taught many of the local Leicester children to swim in the River Soar. He had a reputation as an excellent field sportsman and as a breeder of sporting dogs which were much in demand locally. Daniel stood 5 feet 11 inches tall and was of normal proportions until he reached his teens. However, by 1793, only four years after he took over from his father as keeper of the local Bridewell gaol, his weight had increased to 32 stone.
Daniel's father, John Lambert, was the keeper of the County Bridewell or House of Correction in Highcross Street, Leicester. Bridewells were introduced in 1576 and were modelled on London’s Bridewell Prison. They were run by local magistrates and by the time John and Daniel Lambert were employed they had become prisons for minor offenders. Lists of prisoners showing Daniel Lambert's signature can still be viewed at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland. He was well thought of by the magistrates and viewed as a kindly and benevolent man by the prisoners in his charge. However when the County Bridewell was amalgamated with the County prison in 1804 and his services were no longer required he was pensioned off.
In March 1806 the Stamford Mercury reported that Daniel Lambert was having a carriage specially built "to convey himself to London where he means to exhibit himself as a natural curiosity". By now his weight had ballooned to 50 stone and it is quite likely that his pension from the County Bridewell was inadequate to meet his living costs; the special financial needs of someone of his size must have included many extra costs including specially-made clothes. Daniel did not enjoy his peep-show existence and he returned to Leicester from London just a few months later. However he went on tour again to several cities and also returned for further visits to London
In June 1809 Daniel Lambert arrived in Stamford for the races. He had just completed a tour that included Cambridge and Huntingdon and was lodging at the Waggon and Horses Inn when died suddenly at 9 o'clock on Wednesday 21st June. He is buried in St Martin’s Church in Stamford and the inscription on his tomb reads
In Remembrance of that prodigy in nature Daniel Lambert a native of Leicester who was possessed of an exalted and convivial mind and, in personal greatness had no competitor: He measured three feet one Inch round the leg and weighed fifty two stone eleven pounds. He departed this life on the 21st of June 1809 aged 39 years. As a testimony of Respect this Stone is erected by his Friends in Leicester
You can find out more about Daniel Lambert by visiting the Newarke Houses Museum where you can see items of Daniel’s clothing, furniture and some of his personal items.