Daniel Lambert 13th March 1770 - 21st June 1809
Daniel Lambert was born at his parents' house in Blue Boar Lane, Leicester, on 13th March 1770. At the age of eight he was a keen swimmer, and for much of his life he
taught local children to swim. Lambert grew up with a strong interest in field sports, and was particularly fond of otter hunting, fishing, shooting and horse racing. From his early teens, Lambert was a keen sportsman and by his late teens he was considered an expert in the breeding of hunting dogs.
In 1784, he was apprenticed to Messrs Taylor & Co, an engraving and die casting works in Birmingham owned by a Mr Benjamin Patrick. The engraved buckles and buttons in which Patrick's factory specialised became unfashionable, however, and the business went into decline. In 1788, Lambert returned to Leicester, to serve as his father's assistant at the gaol. His father retired soon afterwards and Lambert succeeded him as gaol keeper. The younger Daniel Lambert was a much-respected gaoler; he befriended many of the prisoners, and made every effort to help them when they went to trial.
At about the time of his return to Leicester his weight began to increase steadily, and by 1793, he weighed 32 stone, even though he was athletically active and, by his own account, abstained from drinking alcohol and did not eat unusual amounts of food. In 1805, the gaol where he worked closed and by this time, he weighed 50 stone, becoming the heaviest authenticated person up to that point in recorded history. Lambert's girth was by then enormous; six men of normal size could fit within his waistcoat and each of his stockings were the size of a sack. Unemployable and sensitive about his bulk, Lambert became a recluse.
In 1806, poverty forced Lambert to put himself on exhibition to raise money. In April 1806, he took up residence in London, During this period of English history no real stigma was attached to obesity, and Lambert was generally considered a wonder to be marvelled at, rather than a freak to be gawped or sneered at. His business venture was immediately successful, drawing around 400 paying visitors per day. Visitors were impressed by his intelligence and personality, and visiting him became highly fashionable. Lambert soon came to the attention of the medical profession, and shortly after his arrival in London, the Medical and Physical Journal published an article about him. They confirmed that he weighed 50 stone, and measured his height as 5 feet 11 inches. A thorough medical examination found that his bodily functions worked correctly, and that he breathed freely.
After some months on public display, Lambert grew tired of exhibiting himself, and in September 1806, he returned, wealthy, to Leicester. Now back in his home town he bred sporting dogs and regularly attended sporting events. Between 1806 and 1809, he made a further series of short fundraising tours.
In June 1809, he set off on another tour of East Anglia, to conclude in Stamford during the Stamford Races. He stayed at the Waggon & Horses Inn at 47 High Street, Stamford on the 20th June. The next day on the morning of the 21st June, Lambert woke at his usual time and appeared in good health. As he began to shave, he complained of breathing difficulties. Ten minutes later, he collapsed and died. At the time of his death, he weighed 52 stone 11 pounds, and his coffin required 112 square feet of wood. Despite the coffin being built with wheels to allow easy transport, and a sloping approach being dug to the grave, it took 20 men almost half an hour to drag his casket into the trench, in a newly opened burial ground to the rear of St Martin's Church. While others have since overtaken Daniel Lambert's record as the heaviest person in history, he remains a popular character in Leicester. Lambert's friends paid for a large gravestone, inscribed:
In Remembrance of that Prodigy in Nature.
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.