"Rotund youngster Johnny Trunley
became a major celebrity in the early 20th century because of his size and even toured Europe with Buffalo Bill.
By the time he was five-years-old, Trunley, who acquired the nickname the Fat Boy of Peckham, was 4ft tall and 10st.
He was enormously strong for his age and could lift his father off the ground.
His sheer size baffled doctors at the time and became a local celebrity, spending most of his time in a local beerhouse entertaining the punters.
A school inspector recommended he should be exempt from attending school because his size might injure the other pupils.
But the London School Board insisted he attend and a carpenter was instructed to build him a king-sized chair and desk.
However, his education took a back seat as he made his debut at the Yarmouth Hippodrome before embarking on a successful British tour in 1904 at the age of just seven.
The practice of exhibiting obese children was commonplace in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s and some of the most high profile acts including Willie Filtz became household names on this side of the Atlantic.
Trunley had British competitors too such as the Westwood family whose boy Wilfrid weighed 22st aged 11.
But it was his quick wit which also made him stand out.
When goaded by country folk about his size during one of his many successful roadshows, Trunley would reply ‘and how much money did you earn this week?’
His popularity came to the attention of American showman Buffalo Bill who invited him on tour.
He also signed a contract with music hall impresario Fred Karno, performing in sketch comedies and meeting Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.
As his fame grew, he kept piling on the pounds and by late 1909 he was advertised to be more than 25 stone.
But the unexpected death of his father, who was also his manager, in 1912 and the advent of the First World War two years later prematurely ended his performing career.
The introduction of rationing saw him shed the stones and in later life had a more traditional career as a clock maker.
Trunley caught pneumonia from spending the nights in damp air raid shelters during the Second World War.
He contracted tuberculosis and died aged 45 in September 1944.
Jack and Jill: Trunley’s tale was not unusual as late-Victorians and Edwardians were fascinated with people who were different to the norm. Obese children, giants, dwarfs, Siamese twins and hairy men were paraded on stage and at circuses. Today this practice would be seen as highly insensitive and against political correctness, but over 100 years ago it was not considered to be cruel."