Thomas Dutton: the Shropshire Giant
Thomas Dutton was known as the Shropshire giant; he was 7ft 3in tall and weighed 23 stone. He was born in Stoke on Tern in 1852 (but his birth wasn’t actually registered until 1853).
Thomas spent his early life in the army; the 1871 census shows him stationed at Wellington Barracks in London but by 1881 he was back home in Stoke on Tern classified as a “Chelsea Pensioner”.
Later Thomas left home again, most probably in search of work. He found employment as a doorman at Lewis’s department store in Manchester.
Whilst living there he met Betsy Allmark, who had also left Shropshire to live in Manchester with her family, where she continued to work as a dressmaker. At the time Manchester was a hub of industry and a lot of rural families left their agricultural lifestyles in order to be employed in factories. Thomas and Betsy married on the 24th March 1884 and had a total of five children.
Shortly after marrying Betsy, Thomas joined Bostock and Wombwells travelling Circus, becoming famous throughout Britain and Europe as “The British Soldier Giant” and “The Shropshire Giant”.
It it believed that Thomas lived in France for at least 7 years before the family returned to live in the Stoke on Tern area. By 1901 Thomas had returned to look after his elderly mother and to take over from his father as an agricultural labourer.
Thomas spent the rest of his life with Betsy in their cottage in Stoke on Tern. He died in 1924, aged 70, and you can still visit his grave at the Parish church.
We are grateful to Mrs George, a descendant of Thomas Dutton, for the above information.
The Whitchurch Connection
During Thomas’s lifetime he had difficulty purchasing shoes in the correct size for his large feet. He relied on one of the Whitchurch shoe shops (G. Owen’s) to have them made for him. In order to do this they kept one of his shoes as a template, and this shoe still exists today in the Whitchurch Museum Collection.