Anthony Payne: A Real Cornish Giant

There are many tales of giants in Cornwall, look up them in a book of legends and they seem to spend quite a lot of their time throwing massive boulders about and striding great distances. But there was one giant who we known truly existed and by all accounts he was a giant of a man in more ways than one.

Anthony Payne was born in Stratton, Bude in Cornwall in 1612 and was a sporty lad who grew to be 7’4″ tall (223.5cm) and 32 stone. A great bear of a man he was also quick-witted and gentle.


Anthony became the bodyguard of a local notable, Sir Bevill Grenville, and fought along side him during the Civil War. His loyalty and bravery gained him the attention of King Charles who ordered this portrait, now hanging in The Royal Cornwall Museum, to be painted.

There are many stories about his formidable size and great feats of strength, such as carrying his friends up the steep cliffs near Stratton for a bet, one tucked under each arm or that making him a jerkin (a waistcoat) took three whole deer skins as his chest was so large.

But perhaps the most poignant story is that when he passed away at his home in Stratton in 1691 the coffin was too large to fit down the stairs. They had to cut a hole in the floor and lower him out that way. It then took a relay team of strong bearers to carry him to his final resting place.

This is a picture of my feet in Anthony footprints at the museum in Truro, I am a size 6 (39).


For other fun characters from Cornwall try: Granny Boswell: Cornwall’s Gypsy Queen

Who was Pirate John ‘Eyebrows’ Thomas?, Saint Keyne and Equal Rights for 5th Century Women

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10 thoughts on “Anthony Payne: A Real Cornish Giant

  1. Curiously I saw this on the day I started a new picture book story about a Cornish (imaginary) Giant! Another blast from my past I’d totally forgotten about.

  2. I used to stay opposite the tree in (old post office) with my family from 1965 (when I was a year old) and every year after until 1980 or so. The story of the giant is one of the earliest I remember.

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