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High and Mighty Cuckfield man Henry Blacker was admired by royalty...

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

The Sussex Giant by Marjorie Morley (from Sussex Life 1971)

Henry Blacker, the Sussex giant, was born near the sleepy little village of Cuckfield in the year 1724. It is not known if he was an outstanding size as a child, but by the time he reached manhood he was over 7'4", and being well proportioned, he made a fine figure of man.

In his early life, he worked as a farm labourer around Henfield and later moved to Bolney. It was probably while he was living there that he first met the Duke of Cumberland, who was to be his friend and patron. The Duke had a house at Brighthelmstone; in fact in later years he invited his nephew George, later to become the Prince Regent to stay there, thus introducing the prince to his beloved Brighton. The Duke's affairs would have taken him frequently to London, and he would have changed horses at the Bolney Inn before tackling the long hill to Handcross. It was probably in that way that the Sussex Giant was brought to the Duke's notice.

Blacker travelled all over Sussex exhibiting himself to the wondering public. As his fame grew he ventured farther afield, until, when he was 27, he reached London, settling in a lodging in a court off Ludgate Hill. The Duke of Cumberland had by now become his patron and often brought parties of friends to see Blacker, who was now known as the British giant.

An engraving published in "The wonderful magazine" shows Henry Blacker with a group of people, none of whom reaches to his shoulders. The Duke was also pictured in a party of friends with Blacker towering head and shoulders above them all.

The "Daily Advertiser" for December 3, 1752, contains the following advertisement "This is to acquaint the curious that the modern living giant, a living Colossus, who has given universal satisfaction, is to be seen in a commodious room in Half Moon Court adjoining Ludgate. The phenomenon in nature has already had the honour of being inspected by great numbers of the nobility and gentry and by many of the Royal Society and several gentlemen and ladies who are lovers of the curiosities who allow him to be a stupendous height and affirm him to be the best proportioned of his size they ever saw. He is to be seen by any number of persons from nine in the morning till nine at night without loss of time.

Note –Lost last Tuesday night between Notton Fairgate and Ludgate, a boot. Whoever has found it and will bring it back to the above Mr Blacker shall receive three shillings reward.

From: Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons (James Caulfield) published by T.H.Whitely 1820

At all periods, and in every country, persons have been found greatly to exceed the ordinary stature of mankind in general. It is recorded that Ferdinand Magellan (before he came to the straits which now bear his name) came to the country of the Patagonians, the people of which are of a most gigantic bulk and height; some of these he enticed on board his ship; they were also huge stature, that the Spaniards heads reached but to their waist. Two of them he made his prisoners by policy; who, thereupon, roared like bulls; their feeding was answerable to their vast bulk; for one of them did eat, at a meal, a whole basket of biscuits, and drank a great bowl of water at each draught.

Commodore Byron, in some degree corroborates the account given of the Patagonians: with however, this abatement in the size of the people, that the general standard they measured, was from 6'6" to seven feet in height, and bulk proportionable to their stature.

Our own, and the sister kingdom, Ireland, have produced what have been denominated Giants, of still greater dimension than Byron describes the Patagonians; amongst whom it may rank Mr Henry Blacker, commonly called the British giant. He was born near Cuckfield, in Sussex in the year 1724. In the year 1751, when he was about 27 years of age, he was publicly exhibited in London, and attracted great numbers, out of curiosity, to see a man measuring the immense height of 7'4", which considerably exceeded that of celebrated German giant named Cajanus, who was shown and received with great success and applause, as a prodigy, some few years prior to Blacker’s exhibition of himself. A great many of the first nobility and Gentry honoured Mr Blacker by their frequent visits, and among others the celebrated William, Duke of Cumberland, was one of his greatest followers and admirers. This man appears, from his portrait to have been a much better-made and proportioned person than the generality of those os a similar description and though the famous O’Brien who measured eight feet two inches, exceeded him ten inches in height, he was knock-kneed, very unwieldy, and clumsily made. An engraving of Blacker has survived, but the artist Is unknown; it was first published in the Wonderful Magazine by C.Johnson but the date of publication is likewise unknown.


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