Robert Hales was born in the village in 1820, and was one of nine children of William and Anne Hales. His father was a farmer.
Both his mother and his father were over 6 feet tall. His 5 sisters averaged about 6 feet 3 inches and his brothers averaged 6 feet 5 inches, and one of his sisters (Mary Hales, later to become Mary Laskey) measured 7 feet 2 inches and another sister (Anne Hales, later to become Anne Laskey) measured only a few inches shorter than her sister Mary. Robert Hales grew to a height of 7 feet 8 inches tall. Robert initially worked on one of the familiar Wherry boats- these are peculiar to the Norfolk Broads-their hulls were shallow to cope with the still and less than deep waters and were used to convey cargoes of coal, grain and lumber between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
At the age of 13 he joined the navy, but when he was 17 years old he was discharged as being considered too large. He took to the road in his bright yellow caravan and started to exhibit himself at the Tombland Fair in Norwich and the Britannia Fair in Great Yarmouth. Later he joined his sister Mary and her manager/husband Joe Laskey. After Mary Laskey died at the age of 30,[apparently of pneumonia in Guernsey] Joe Laskey married the sister Anne Laskey who was about 6 feet 8 inches tall, though legend says she was seven foot six inches. Robert did not agree to Joe marrying his other sister and the group parted.He had met Queen Victoria at the age of 20 who commented on his likeness to her uncle, George IV.
He went to America in 1848 where he met P.T. Barnum, of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Barnum signed him for his American Museum and Robert was exhibited in New York and was known as the Norfolk Giant. While with Barnum, he met and 'married' the giantess Eliza Simpson. He toured with Barnum for 2 years before he went back to England, tired of touring. He became the landlord of the Craven Head Tavern in Drury Lane in London.
Eventually he attained the height of 7 feet 8 inches and over 32 stone (450 lb; 200 kg). He lived in a caravan at Cumber Corner, Beighton and survived on an income from selling leaflets about his life and times.As his health worsened he returned to Norfolk, where he died.
Because of his size he was a famous touring circus attraction in Europe and America.
He was interred in his home village surrounded by the graves of his family, one of which is that of Mary Laskey, nee Hales, one of his sisters.She was, according to legend,even taller than Robert at eight feet-but then, this is legend!
[Grave photos Wikimedia Commons]
Beneath are deposited the mortal remains of Robert Hales The Norfolk Giant whose height was 7 feet 8 inches. He died at Great Yarmouth on 22nd November 1863. Render the dust must be your bed, vain are opposing powers. The wise the strong and crowned heads must lie as low as ours. This tomb is erected by an affectionate widow.
Sarcophagus type tomb