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James Toller, the Eynesbury Giant

Image courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Community Archive
Image courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Community Archive

James Toller was born in Rectory Lane, St Neots in 1798 and at the age of ten was already 5ft 5 inches tall. He reached his full height of 8ft 6 inches at the age of 18, his feet were fifteen inches long and he measured twenty six inches from foot to knee.

james-toller-postcardIn 1815 he was exhibited in London and presented to the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia. In 1816 he toured briefly with a dwarf named Simon Paap, a Dutchman who was only twenty eight inches tall.

He enlisted with the Life Guards for a time but after his health began to deteriorate he returned home to his mother in Eynesbury. The Rector at this time was the Revd. William Palmer and he permitted James to exercise in the Rectory grounds away from the public.

James died in 1818 at only 20 years old was buried in the church to avoid the possible temptation to body snatchers. It is rumoured that £20 had been offered for it by a doctor. St Mary the virgin Parish Church has a memorial to James on the floor of the nave.

Sadly the house where James was born was demolished in the 1960s but a historical plaque on the site denotes where it once stood.