Although by his own account Lambert did not eat unusually large amounts of food, at about the time of his return to Leicester his weight began to increase steadily, and by 1793 he weighed 32 stone (450 lb; 200 kg). Concerned for his fitness, in his spare time he devoted himself to exercise, building his strength to the point where he was able to easily carry five hundredweight (560 lb; 250 kg). On one occasion, while he was watching a dancing bear on display in Blue Boar Lane, his dog slipped loose and bit it. The bear knocked the dog to the ground, and Lambert asked its keeper to restrain it so he could retrieve his wounded animal; however, the keeper removed the bear's muzzle so it could attack the dog. Lambert reportedly struck the bear with a pole and with his left hand, punched its head, knocking it to the ground to allow the dog to escape.[n 4]
Despite his increasingly large girth, Lambert remained fit and active, once walking seven miles (11 km) from Woolwich to the City of London "with much less apparent fatigue than several middle-sized men who were of the party". Although not particularly agile, he was not significantly restricted by his bulk, and was able to stand on one leg and kick the other to a height of 7 feet (2.1 m). He continued to teach swimming in Leicester, and was able to stay afloat with two grown men sitting on his back. He disliked changing his clothes, and each morning habitually wore the clothes he had worn the day before, regardless of whether they were still wet; by Lambert's own account he suffered no colds or other ill effects from this behaviour.
By 1801 Lambert's weight had increased to about 40 stone (560 lb; 250 kg), and, as his bulk meant neither he nor his horse were able to keep up with the hunt, he was forced to give up hunting. He continued to maintain an interest in field sports, keeping a pack of 30 terriers. By this time, although he retained his solid reputation as a gaoler, serious concerns were being raised about his fitness for the post. Traditional gaols were falling out of favour and being replaced with forced labour institutions, and in 1805 the old Bridewell gaol was closed. Lambert was left without a job, but was granted an annuity of £50 (about £3,100 as of 2010) a year by the Leicester magistrates, in recognition of his excellent service as gaol keeper.
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