Daniel Lambert was born at his parents' house in Blue Boar Lane, Leicester, on 13 March 1770.[n 2] His father, also named Daniel Lambert, had been the huntsman to Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, and at the time of his son's birth was the keeper of Leicester's gaol. The eldest of four children, Daniel Lambert had two sisters, and a brother who died young.
At the age of eight he was a keen swimmer, and for much of his life he taught local children to swim. Lambert's paternal uncle—like his father—also worked with animals, but as a professional gamekeeper; his maternal grandfather was a breeder of champion fighting cocks. Lambert grew up with a strong interest in field sports, and was particularly fond of otter hunting, fishing, shooting and horse racing. From his early teens Lambert was a keen sportsman and by his late teens he was considered an expert in the breeding of hunting dogs.
In 1784 he was apprenticed to Messrs Taylor & Co, an engraving and die casting works in Birmingham owned by a Mr Benjamin Patrick. The engraved buckles and buttons in which Patrick's factory specialised became unfashionable, however, and the business went into decline. In 1788 Lambert returned to Leicester, to serve as his father's assistant at the gaol (some sources date Lambert's return to Leicester to 1791, following the destruction of the building housing Messrs Taylor & Co in the Priestley Riots of July 1791). His father retired soon afterwards and Lambert succeeded him as gaol keeper. The younger Daniel Lambert was a much-respected gaoler; he befriended many of the prisoners, and made every effort to help them when they went to trial.[n 3]