Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Aldworth Giants

Republishing this blog for the benifit of Inspired Sunday
Aldworth is a small village set just on  the Berkshire Downs near the ridgeway it is mentioned on the Domsday Book under Elleorde which in old English could have meant Old Enclosure of Old Farm. It's a very rural farming community though once boasted a village shop and school which have now gone but it does have the best pub in the area, the family owning it have had the place for the last 300 years. In 1978 the pub hit the headlines when it became the first place to charter Concord for a flight something which did not go down well with the Concord club but then they did not have one of the pilots as a local. One of my claims to fame is that I was on the flight.

So who were the Aldworth Giants, well they were the De La Beche family and in the church are  figures that are supposed to be life size representations, depicting knights all over seven feet tall. According to tradition the giants were known by other names: John Long, John Strong, John Never Afraid and John Ever Afraid. The effigy said to represent John Ever afraid no longer exists, but was set in an alcove in the outside wall of the church, which has now been blocked. It is said that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for worldly riches. The bargain was that the Devil would claim his soul whether he was buried inside or outside the church. Burying his body within the church walls meant that the Devil was cheated of his prize.

As you walk up to the church along the footpath you can see the where grave to John Ever Afraid was.

Looking at the space I feel it is a shame that there is nothing there now other that a filled in space.

 Going in the porch door and you are confronted by some wonderful arched tracery where you can see the graves of the De La Beche Family.

Starting on the right as you go in is John De La Beche who was the second son of Sir John and Lady Isabella. He died in 1394. Le lays recumbent with no armor and a dog at his feet.

Next along is Lady Joan, Nee De La Zouche, wife of Sir Philip. He Effigy shorter than the Recess was moved here from the nave. Her costume is 14th Century and her pillow is supported by angels

Sir Philip De La Beche second son of Sir Philip and Lady Joan, A Knight of Berks. Committed to Scarborough Castle in 1322 but pardoned in 1327 by Edward III. He was sheriff of Berks& Oxon 1332-3. His effigy is fully armored with the visor raised.
 Their effigy's are along the South Aisle to the right of the entrance.

Looking over the North side of the Nave is another set of effigies which I you see as you walk in the entrance door, they are.

Sir Robert De La Beche Knighted by Edward I in 1278. The figure is in plated Armour with a surcoat. This is the first of nine effigies carved between 1300 & 1350

This fellow is Sir John De La Beche who was the son of Sir Robert who was also a knight and received his lands from his father. His feet are resting on a Lion.
Going back up the nave and looking across to the South Aisle you can find Sir Philip De La Beche  son of Sir John he received ands from his Father, Sheriff of Berks and Oxon 1313-1314. Mantle over embossed armor to signify he was valet to to Edward II. Jailed as a rebel in 1322 with his sons but pardoned by Edward III. Said to be seven foot tall

Last on that side is Sir Philip De La Beche Third son of Sir Philip and Lady Joan. He was made Constable of the Tower and custodian of Edward III first son later the Black Prince. Granted Leave by Edward to Castellate the Manor. He died in 1345 and was co founder of the South Aisle.

Between the nave and South Aisle you will the last two effigies. They are Lady Isabella nee De Elmrige wife of Sir John. Co founder of the South Aisle with Sir Nicholas,hence the position of her effigy. Canopies of the South Aisle were engraved with the pattern of her seal.
 Next to her lays Sir John De La Beche first son of Sir Phlip and Lady Joan. A knight of Berks in 1316 and keeper of Winchester Castle. Committed to the tower in 1322 by Edward II but pardoned by Edward III in 1327. He lies in the Armour of a Knight with his dogs and a lion at his feet.
So those were the Aldworth Giants and you may wonder why the effigies are all so damages, well it seems the Roundheads popped in during the civil war (battle of Newbury up the road) and took it out on them thinking they were royalty.
The church itself is a simple one very unadorned like others I have been to

Even the chancel is simple with just a couple of memorials in it.

 At the end of the south Aisle are a couple of Memorials to the Dunlop Family. One to the sons who were killed in the Second World War
Their parents memorial is below them. The Family used to live at De La Beche farm site of the old castle.

Outside under the chancel window is Aldworths War Memorial and on it you can see the Dunlop brothers are listed.
A little further away you can see the remains of the yew tree which is said to go back 1000 years and no doubt saw the De La Beche family walk past to services on Sundays.
One last little story I read was that Queen Elizabeth the 1st visited the church while out for a ride. you can read a bit more in the Aldworth Website.   If you ever find yourself in the area it is well worth stopping off for an hour to look round the church.
Since writing this blog  Geoffrey Morgan has left a message below on his theory about the 10th Giant John Ever Afraid which could well be in St Lawrence Church Hungerford It makes interesting reading and I can see where Geoffrey is coming from on this. No doubt someone will discover what happened in time.


  1. Fascinating post. Looks like it's well worth a visit. Such a shame that the De Le Beche memorials were so badly damaged.

    Thank you for linking up with Cemetery Sunday.

    Beneath Thye Feet

  2. Very interesting! I'd love to visit one day. Thanks for sharing this story.

  3. This is fascinating --- and so many great photos!!! Thanks for sharing on Taphophile Tragics! :)

  4. What an interesting place.

  5. On visiting the church of St Mary’s I realized that the nine giant effigies were similar to those in the Temple Church in London and saw that, as in the case of Sir Philip De La Beche (Aldworth), the effigy had crossed legs and was therefore likely to be Knight Templar; six of the Aldworth effigies, as in London have crossed legs
    When the original Knights Templar returned from excavating under Temple Mount in Jerusalem they brought back much treasure that was concealed at various locations known only to those Knights and successive Grand Masters. The secret of the treasure sites was recorded on the Chess Board which symbol became the Templar Banner. Each of the sites was symbolised by a chess piece. In the case of Sir Philip De La Beche (the elder) he is seen as the white King and goes on his black square. Lady Isabella De La Beche is the Black Queen. One of the effigies holds the key to the ‘Great Secret of the Knight Templar’.
    In reality then it would appear that the same clues seen in London have been set out at Aldworth and therefore makes the story the ‘Giants’ tell all the more intriguing. There is however one other part to the story. Originally there were ten effigies at Aldworth; the tenth was in the arched recess in the south wall of the church, but was lost during renovation works. I believe it found its way to St Lawrence’s Church Hungerford where it is known as Sir Robert De Hungerford. In my opinion the Hungerford ‘Sir Robert’ is ‘identical’ to Sir Philip De La Beche (the elder) at Aldworth.
    (Booklet – ‘The Aldworth Giants’ – Geoffrey Morgan)

    Geoffrey Morgan

    1. Thank you, I've always wondered about the effigies, you have opened my eyes a bit more

  6. Fascinating coverage - great photos, Bill!

  7. What a wonderful area for history fans!
    Tom The Backroads Traveller

  8. The effigies are certainly interesting and the comments from Geoffrey Morgan above make it even more so. Thanks for sharing in InSPIREd Sunday.

  9. The secret of the Templar treasure sites is not only 'revealed' at Aldworth and in London it is also depicted in the Danse Macabre figures in the Lady Chapel at Rosslyn and in the Classical Monuments at Shugborough. In effect the Templar have left an 'open secret' which is a mystery to the layman and only to be understood by Grand Masters of the Order.
    "Nothing is wanted but the key, and if thou canst understand these things, thou knowest enough"

  10. Geoffrey Morgan has written and (privately) produced 'The Aldworth Giants', which sets out and describes the characters of the 'Giants' and their association with the effigies in Temple Church and at Rosslyn.

  11. You posted some nice work lately Bill! I enjoyed reading your posts again!! :-)

    Greetings from the Netherlands! ;-)
    Gert Jan Hermus

  12. I have visited my distant ancestors.

  13. I visited the church today. They have a lovely tapestry of Aldworth village and associated historical events & people. It is dated 2000 and I gather everyone put a stitch in it. The yew tree is on it and the lady telling me about the tapestry said that it WAS supposed to be around 1000 years old, but is now thought to be more like 2000 yrs old - wow ! Very interesting little church.