1630: Nicholas Wood, the Great Eater of Kent

Nicholas Wood (c.1585-1630) was an early 17th century glutton, famous for eating vast amounts of food in one sitting. His favourite food was apparently cow’s liver, though from all accounts he would eat just about anything.

Wood was born in Hollingbourne, Kent, sometime in the 1580s before moving to nearby Harrietsham. Very little is known about Wood, except that he was a farmer who owned his own land, that he was strongly built and he was not afraid of hard work. Exactly when Wood started his career as a voracious trencherman is unknown, though there are references to him ‘performing’ in the 1610s. Wood eventually died in poverty in 1630, having sold his estate to fund his travel and excessive eating.

The best known source about his exploits was published in the year of his death and titled The Great Eater of Kent, or Part of the Admirable Teeth and Stomach Exploits of Nicholas Wood. According to extracts from this source, repeated in 1678, Wood:

“…did eat a whole sheep, of 16 shillings price, and raw at that, at one meal. Another time he eat 30 dozen of pigeons. At Sir William Sedley’s he eat as much as would have sufficed 30 men. At the Lord Wottons in Kent, he eat at one meal four-score and four [84] rabbits… He made an end of a whole hog at once and after it swallowed three pecks of damsons.”

Wood and his followers encouraged wagers about what he could or could not eat. By all accounts, Wood lost very few of these, though he was beaten once by a certain John Dale, who boasted that he could fill Wood’s stomach for two shillings. Wood took the wager and Dale purchased 12 loaves of bread which he “sopped in a mighty ale”. This meal sent Wood to sleep and won Dale the bet.

Source: Cited in Nathaniel Wanley, The Wonders of the Little World, or a General History of Man, London, 1674. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.