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The Aldworth Giants

The tiny atmospheric parish church at Aldworth, contains numerous huge effigies of the De La Beche family. The figures are supposed to be life size representations, depicting knights all over seven feet tall. The De La Beche family were powerful landowners and knights in the 14th century. Many of them were retainers to the king, warders to the Tower of London, and Sheriffs of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

The family were influential during the reign of Edward the II (deposed in 1327) and Edward the III (died 1376), and were embroiled in the royal intrigue of the time. Sir Phillip was imprisoned in Scarborough castle from 1322 to 1327, but later pardoned by Edward the III; His father, also Sir Philip was jailed and later pardoned during the reign of Edward the II.

Unfortunately many of the effigies were vandalised by Cromwell's men during the Civil War in the 17th century. Many of the knights are missing the lower part of their legs, noses and arms, no doubt the easiest parts to break off. They were probably seen as a symbol of royalty by the parliamentarians, although many churches were ransacked in the same period.

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.

Also of note is the ancient Yew tree, which stands (aided by supports) in the churchyard. It is thought to be around a thousand years old, and probably dates from the first church on the site. The tree has been struck by lightning several times, and only part of it remains alive, although it has seeded into new growth nearby.

Yew trees are often found in ancient churchyards symbolising immortality and rebirth, it was also a sacred tree in ancient times. 

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Lee Waterhouse
Daniel Parkinson

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Re: The Aldworth Giants

These gians could have been ancestors of Frya's Children. She was 7 foot tall and carried a 7 foot sword. These ancient Frisian women cut off their left breast in order to wear their swords. The men as well were 7 foot or better...there is always a piece of truth to all folk just has to dig deep enough into ancient histories to find these ancient treasures.

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Ian Topham
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Re: The Aldworth Giants

The Legend of the ‘Aldworth Giants’

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)



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