Fred Kempster, is known as the English Giant, the Avebury Giant and the Bath Giant, but to many Blackburnian's, he will always be, the Blackburn Giant.
Fred was born in Bayswater, London in 1889. He was the second youngest of seven children, having three sisters and three brothers. His brothers and sisters were all of relatively normal height (slightly taller than the average) and so was Fred until the age of 15, when he really started to outgrow all around him. By the age of 19, he measured 7' 11''.
Fred's father died on Christmas Day 1897. His mother tried her best, but couldn't afford to hold the family together, so in September 1898, nine year old Fred and his younger brother George (3 yrs), were admitted into a Barnardo's orphanage.
Soon after, Fred was sent overseas to Canada, where he stayed with various families, until returning to the UK, when he was 15.
Colin Alexander-Jones, who did extensive research into Fred's life, tells us that he was a basket maker by trade and also had a remarkable sporting memory for anything connected with racing, football, but particularly cricket. He records that he was also a good swimmer and a clever comedian.
When the war broke out in 1914, Fred (now 25) was on tour, with a circus in Germany. Being a British national, he was interned by the authorities and held prisoner for the next 2 years. It is believed that due to a poor diet and terrible living conditions, whilst a prisoner in Germany, Fred's health deteriorated significantly and when he returned to our shores in 1916, he was already in relatively poor health.
He spent a year in a London hospital and then on release, continued to tour here in the UK and it was while appearing as a sideshow attraction, as part a travelling fair, he contracted influenza here in Blackburn. It later developed into pneumonia and Fred had to be moved from his room at the Haymarket Hotel, on Ainsworth Street (photo below), to Queens Mary's Military Hospital ( Calderstones near Whalley - photo below), were he died, aged just 29 years, on the 15th April 1918.
Fred Kempster was buried in the Whalley New Rd Cemetery, where he remains to this day, which is why he will always be to locals, the Blackburn Giant.
There is debate as to just how tall Fred was. Historians have proof, that he was at least 7'11'', but a decade or so ago, the undertaker's daughter, swore that her father had always insisted that the corpse measured just over 8'4''. The coffin he made for Fred was 9 feet in length (internally) and as coffins were made to have just a couple of inches of space at either end, it lends some weight to the undertaker's claim.
7' 11'' or 8'4'', Fred was indeed a giant.
Rest In Peace Fred and on behalf of every school kid, over the past 90 years, that ventured up to visit your grave or was fascinated by the tale, THANKS.
The Haymarket pub circa 1963
Queens Mary's Military Hospital circa 1917
(Previous information amended on 17th february 2010 after receiving advice from James Kempster - Please see 5th comment below for further details)
FRED PHOTOS COURTESY OF BARNARDO'S AND 'THE TALLEST MAN'
HAYMARKET PUB PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN EDDLESTON
INFORMATION COURTESY OF COLIN ALEXANDER-JONES, THE KEMPSTER FAMILY (GRAND NEPHEW JAMES) AND 'THE TALLEST MAN'
HERE'S A LINK TO AN ARTICLE ABOUT HIS UNDERWEAR.
AND AN ARTICLE ABOUT HIS SHOES BEING REPAIRED
(Courtesy of the LET)