TODAY is the 250th anniversary of the birth of the biggest celebrity in British history – and we do mean big. For Daniel Lambert made a career out of being, quite simply, the heaviest man who had ever lived, tipping the scales at 52st 11lbs, that’s 739lbs in all, or 335kg.

He was so huge people would come many miles to see him and pay for the privilege of doing so.

Born in Leicester on March 13, 1770, Lambert’s life has lessons for our fame, freakery and weight-obsessed age.


NOT at all. He was the son of a gamekeeper-turned-head jailer of the local “house of correction”, as prisons were then known.

The young Lambert was keen on country sports and was an expert swimmer – he would go on to teach many local children to swim.

As a teenager he was apprenticed to a die-casting works in Birmingham but he returned to Leicester where he succeeded his father as head jailer at the age of 21 – he was apparently very good at his job.

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By then he had gained renown as an expert breeder of hunting dogs and his swimming and shooting kept him very fit – he was an expert horseman, too.

Perhaps the sedentary nature of his job affected him, for his weight began to increase and within three years of returning to Leicester he weighed 32st (200kgs).


THE remarkable thing is that Lambert remained a fit man even

as his weight ballooned. He was prodigiously strong and did weightlifting to maintain his fitness – he was once shown to be able to lift 560lbs (250kgs) of timber.

The most famous true story of his athletic feats is his encounter with a bear. He was out walking his favourite hunting dog when he came across a bear-baiting session. His dog jumped at the bear which easily slapped it away.

The bear’s keeper slipped off its muzzle to allow it to kill the dog but Lambert jumped forward with a wooden pole and knocked the bear off his dog before lashing out with a fist and felling the bear.


THINGS were very different then. Now, he would have been ridiculed for his obesity, but in the first years of the 19th century Lambert was something of a hero to his fellow citizens in Leicester.

This was especially when his weight topped the 50st (420kgs) mark to make him officially the heaviest person in history, surpassing the previous record-holder, Edward Bright.

Nowadays, Lambert would not even be in the top 30 of the heaviest people who have ever lived. That record is held by the American Jon Brower Minnoch (1941-83), who weighed in at 100st (635kgs).

Although he could still walk, Lambert needed a specially built carriage when he moved to London in 1806. The jail had closed and he needed money so he set himself up as a “curiosity” – note, not a freak – and charged people one shilling just to come and see him in his house.

He advertised in The Times: “EXHIBITION.— MR DANIEL LAMBERT, of Leicester, the greatest Curiosity in the World, who, at the age of 36, weighs upwards of FIFTY STONE (14lb to the stone). Mr Lambert will see Company at his House, No.53, Piccadilly, opposite St. James’s Church, from 12 to 5 o’clock.— Admittance 1s.”

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People flocked to see him and the upper classes of London society were amazed at his intelligent conversation and his extensive knowledge of breeding and sports.

He met King George III and caused a sensation in the press when he met “Count” Jozef Boruwlaski, the Polish-born dwarf and musician. One newspaper compared Lambert to Sir John Falstaff and Boruwlaski to Tom Thumb.

Lambert eventually tired of London life and returned to Leicester. Touring England and charging people to see him, he became a wealthy man and was able to breed, buy and sell some of the best dogs in the land.


ON what he had said would be his last tour as he had sufficient money to retire, Lambert was visiting Stamford in Lincolnshire to attend a race meeting there and exhibit himself when he died suddenly in the Waggon and Horses Inn.

No post-mortem was carried out but the most plausible theory is that he died of a pulmonary embolism as he had complained of breathlessness. It was June 21, 1809, and Lambert was just 39.

His body began to putrefy and it was decided to bury him locally and quickly.

According to the Stamford Civic Society’s history, a window and part of a wall at the inn had to be dismantled to allow his body to be removed for burial. The coffin required 156 square feet (14.493 sq.m) of wood, wheels were fitted and it took “upwards of 20 men” with ropes to lower it down a sloping ramp into the grave in the cemetery of St Martin’s Church.

His gravestone gives details of how heavy he was:

“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 nine Feet four Inches round the Body 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”

In Stamford Town Hall there is a life-size model of Lambert dressed in replica clothes and a painting of him is located inside Stamford’s famous George Hotel, a former coaching inn. Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester has a display all about the city’s largest-ever celebrity.