Aldworth parish church
Rolling fields of barley and other crops in Aldworth with patched woodland.
|Area||9.06 km2 (3.50 sq mi)|
|Population||296 (2011 census)|
|• Density||33/km2 (85/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Website||Aldworth Village Community Website|
Aldworth is a mostly cultivated village and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire, close to the boundary with Oxfordshire, in a rural area between Reading, Newbury and Streatley. It includes the hamlet of Westridge Green.[n 1] Aldworth is on the high ground of the Berkshire Downs, just off the B4009 road between Newbury and Streatley. The north of it is crossed by The Ridgeway, a pre-Roman Britain 87-mile footpath. The parish church has large medieval figures in white stone, seemingly life-size, although some of the knights have an unlikely height of over seven feet. The Battle of Ashdown, where King Alfred defeated the Danes in January AD 871, is said by some to have occurred near The Ridgeway and Lowbury Hill.
A small area in the south of the village bears centuries-old woodland that is still coppiced and carpeted with bluebells. It is open to the public subject to informal permission. The north of Aldworth is traversed by one of the National Trails, The Ridgeway, a pre-Roman Britain footpath 87 miles long.
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 holds the largest number of medieval memorials to a single family in any parish church. The figures are supposed to be life-size representations, but they recreate some of the knights as over seven feet tall, which has led to theme becoming known as the "Aldworth Giants". They were long thought to have been erected in the 1340s by the most influential member of the family, Sir Nicholas De La Beche (sometimes erroneously called Lord De La Beche,), but historians now suggest they date from various times in the Middle Ages.
A large number of the effigies were damaged by Parliamentarian iconoclasts during the Civil War of the 17th century. Many of the knights are missing the lower part of their legs, noses and arms, presumably because these 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, where there is a slate memorial plaque to him. The parents of Emily Tennyson, Lady Tennyson née Sellwood, the wife of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, are also buried there.
|Output area||Homes owned outright||Owned with a loan||Socially rented||Privately rented||Other||km² roads||km² water||km² domestic gardens||Usual residents||km²|
Notes and references
- Key Statistics: Dwellings; Quick Statistics: Population Density; Physical Environment: Land Use Survey 2005
- "'Unchanged' family-run pub named best in the UK". BBC News. 12 February 2020. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
- 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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