William Bradley, the 'Yorkshire Giant'

william bradley

The Social History collections of Hull Museums contain an interesting item relating to the amazing tale of William Bradley the 'Yorkshire Giant'. The portrait, engraved by Samuel Freeman in 1811, shows Bradley standing in a doorway with another man of normal height.

William Bradley, was born in Market Weighton (approximately 20 miles North West of Hull) on the 10th February 1787 and weighed 14lbs (6.35kg) at birth. He was the fourth of thirteen children. All the rest were of normal height except for one sister who showed signs she would be nearly as tall as her brother but she died at the age of sixteen.

By the time he was twenty Bradley was 7 ft 9 inches tall (2.36m) and weighed 27 stone (172 kg). He needed a walking stick 5 ft 10 inches in length (1.78m), which was taller than the average male height at this time. His feet measured 16 inches (406mm) long and more than 6 inches (159 mm) wide. There is a plaque on the wall of his house showing the size of his shoes, and he remains, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the tallest Englishman ever on record.

Travelling Showman

Bradley spent many years with a group of travelling showmen billed as "The Yorkshire Giant" including regular appearances at the Hull Fair. Word of his height spread and he was invited to an audience with King George III who presented him with a gold chain which he wore for the rest of his life. Bradley eventually retired from the performing circuit and returned to Market Weighton where he died on the 30th May 1820 aged 33.

He was originally buried in the grounds of All Saints Church in the town but it was feared that bodysnatchers, or 'Resurrection Men' as they were commonly known would attempt to steal his remains, so he was later re-interred inside the church.

Remembering William Bradley today

William Bradley is an important attraction for the town of Market Weighton. Since May 1996 the town has hosted an annual Giant Bradley Day, with stalls, exhibitions and entertainers taking over the main street. The Giant Bradley Heritage Trail was launched in 2005 highlighting interesting buildings across the town and in 2007 a lifesize oak statue was unveiled.