- Aldworth is also the name of a stately home in Blackdown, Sussex
St. Mary the Virgin parish church, pictured circa 2000
Aldworth shown within Berkshire
|Population||308 (2001 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Unitary authority||West Berkshire|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Aldworth Village Community Website|
Aldworth is a small village and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire, close to the modern northern county boundary with Oxfordshire. It is in the rural area between Reading, Newbury and Streatley. The parish includes the neighbouring hamlet of Westridge Green.
Aldworth is a civil parish with an elected parish council. It is in the area of West Berkshire unitary authority. The parish council and unitary authority are responsible for different aspects of local government.
Aldworth was recorded in the Domesday Book as Elleorde, an Old English name meaning Old Enclosure or Old Farm. During the 12th century it was known as Aldewurda. In medieval times there was a fortified manor or castle at Aldworth.
La Beche Castle once stood on the site of what is now merely Beche Farm in Aldworth. This was the main residence of the De La Beche family, after whom it was named. They were a well-known family of medieval knights holding many high positions at court since at least 1260.
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 II and Edward III, 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 III. His father, also Sir Philip was gaoled and later pardoned during the reign of Edward II.
The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin contains numerous effigial monuments to the De La Beche family. The collection is the largest number of medieval memorials to a single family in a parish church. The figures are supposed to be life size representations but they show some of the knights as over seven feet tall, which has led to their being called the Aldworth Giants. Originally thought to have been erected by the most influential member of the family, Sir Nicholas De La Beche (sometimes erroneously called 'Lord De La Beche') in the 1340s, historians now suggest they date from various periods.
Many of the effigies were damaged by Parliamentarian iconoclasts during the Civil War in the 17th century. Many of the knights are missing the lower part of their legs, noses and arms, presumably because they were the easiest parts to break off. Parliamentarians may have seen the giants as a symbol of royalty, although many churches were ransacked in the same period.
The poet Laurence Binyon moved to Westridge Green on his retirement in 1933. After his death in 1943, his ashes were scattered in the churchyard and there is a slate memorial to him. Alfred, Lord Tennyson's parents-in-law are buried here.
- "Area selected: West Berkshire (Unitary Authority)". Neighbourhood Statistics: Full Dataset View. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
- Ford, David Nash (2011). "Aldworth". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2001). "La Beche Castle". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2001). "Aldworth Church". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2001). "Sir Nicholas De La Beche (d. 1345)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Christopher Winn: I Never Knew That about the River Thames (London: Ebury Press, 2010), p. 79.
- Page, William; Ditchfield, P.H., eds. (1924). A History of the County of Berkshire, Volume 4. Victoria County History. pp. 3–8.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 63–65.
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