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Ann Hardy - Rippingale’s Giantess

Ann Hardy was born in Rippingale in 1799. When she died on July 17 1815, she was 7 feet, 2 inches tall and was known as the Lincolnshire or Rippingale Giantess.

Her parents, Thomas and Sarah Hardy were apparently of "normal" size -her father was a mere 5 feet 6 inches tall - it's not known whether she had any brothers or sisters.

Reports in the Stamford Mercury and the Farmers' Journal recorded that her coffin measured seven and a half feet long and two feet, seven inches wide at the shoulders. They also reported that she was well known in the area and that her amazing height had attracted considerable attention - she'd been put on show at fairs and galas locally. Several other very tall people toured the country on show in tents or were installed in hotel rooms where visitors could pay to meet them.

There are a couple of mysteries connected to Ann Hardy - not least where she was buried. She was clearly buried locally - her death was registered in Rippingale - but does not appear on the register of identifiable graves in the St. Andrew's Church graveyard in the village and it's very tempting to take a tape measure to look for the longest grave there. She appears to have been luckier than some whose bodies were sold to medical museums or for dissection.

Silvia Hardy
Born 1824 in Maine, America

The second eyebrow-raiser is that there was another much better known woman - Sylvia Hardy - who was born in Maine in America on the 17th of August 1824 and died there on August 1888. She was known as the Maine Giantess and was 7 feet 6 inches tall but had a twin brother who was of normal height.

It's a bit of a coincidence for two women with the same name sharing the same rare condition, even if they were born thousands of miles apart - there was steady emigration to America at the time - and the condition may be genetic.

Theories about what causes what's called "gigantism" have been explored. One is that the pituitary gland may overproduce hormones which cause the extraordinary growth - and early death.

© Jim Latham, February 2012