William Bradley (1787 – 1820) was commonly known as “The Yorkshire Giant” He was born on 10 February 1787 in Market Weighton in Yorkshire’s East Riding. He was the fourth of thirteen children. Weighing in at 14 pounds (6.35 kg) at birth, Bradley grew to his full height of 7 feet 9 inches (2.36 m) by the time he was 20 years of age. At the age of 11 he weighed eleven stones (154 pounds). He is considered the tallest ever recorded Englishman.
Bradley’s father, who was only 5 ft. 9 in. (1.75 m) tall, was a master tailor in the town. As he grew older, William worked on a local farm near Pocklington. Ironically, tools designed especially for his grip and his height, had to made.
To earn a bit of money on the side, Bradley would make wagers with others on whether he could complete certain tasks set up as an “I dare you” style event. Once, he was challenged to carry a huge stone a quarter mile into the centre of Market Weighton. That particular stone can still be found on the corner of Londesborough Road, opposite the church.
Initially, Bradley traveled about the country charging people a shilling to come to his hotel room and shake his hand. Later, William Bradley made appearances at fairs all over England. Included along with his appearances were an extremely large pig, bred in nearby Sancton and a local dwarf by the name of Edward Clavet, who was from Shiptonthorpe. However, he left this arrangement because of a steady lack of pay and the cramped conditions in which was to stay. A man of William Bradley’s size could not remain in small spaces long without it causing him pain.
Bradley’s notoriety presented another claim to fame. He was summoned to meet King George III, who presented William with a large gold watch on a chain, which Bradley wore with pride for the remainder of his days.
The I’m From Yorkshire website tells us, “The problem with this new lifestyle was that he lacked exercise and his insatiable appetite meant his weight further increased. Moreover throughout much of his adult life Bradley had to walk with the aid of a stick, which itself was 5ft 10in in height. He moved back to his specially designed house on York Road, Market Weighton, which still stands today. The property was converted with high ceilings and doorways to accommodate his extra height. Its structure is higher than the other buildings around it meaning that it is definitely recognisable as being the home of a Giant!”
Bradley was just 33 years old when he died on 30 May 1820, reportedly from tuberculosis. He was buried inside All Saints Church in Market Weighton, for it was assumed grave robbers would attempt to make money off Bradley’s demise. The coffin was 9 feet long and 3 feet wide. His former home on Market Hill is now a shop.
Beginning in May 1996 and continued since, Market Weighton has celebrated “Giant Bradley Day.” It is a fair of sorts with rides, steam organs, stalls, music, and such. “Through its early years it was opened by the current tallest man in Britain, Chris Greener, who is 7ft 6in tall.”