One of the giants in St Mary's church, Aldworth

The Life and Legend of the Aldworth Giants

(Read the article on one page)

In the simple, tiny church of St. Mary, Aldworth there lie the nine stone statues of what have become known as the “Aldworth Giants,” a name bestowed upon them because all are over 7 feet tall and are said to be life-sized representations of the de la Beche family members.

After Duke William of Normany crossed the English Channel and took London, his supporters followed in search of lands and wealth. The de la Beche family was among them. They received numerous properties and built two castles, one of which was in Aldworth. Though the castle no longer stands, the church houses the last of the family’s descendants.

St Mary Church in Aldworth

St Mary Church in Aldworth ( Wikimedia Commons )

The de la Beche family was very influential in the first half of the 14 th century, and many of the family members represented in the church were knights. Sir Robert, the eldest member of the family buried here, was knighted by King Edward I, and his grandson, Sir Philip was valet to Edward II, and was also sheriff of Berkshire and Wiltshire in 1314. He and his sons took part in a rebellion against King Edward II in 1322. The opposition was defeated, however, but as luck would have it they were captured and imprisoned for five years instead of being beheaded. In 1327, Edward III, who was now king, absolved them and restored their lands and positions to them.

Sir Philip’s son, Lord Nicholas, went on to become an integral in the English empire under Edward III. He served as steward of the province of Gascony, Constable of the Tower, and custodian of Edward III’s first son until his death in 1346.


While their lives were impressive, the de la Beche memorials prove to be even more so. They fill the small church, as if reminding onlookers of their greater than life accomplishments. The first family members first to be seen upon entering the church are Sir Robert de la Beche, his son Sir John, and John’s son Sir Phillip, who are under arched tracery along the north wall. Sir Phillip had six sons and a daughter: John, Philip, Nicholas, Edmond, Robert, Edward, and Joan. The nave of the church houses the effigy of Phillip’s first son, Sir John, along with Sir John’s wife, Isabella, and his younger brother, Lord Nicholas de la Beche. Lord Nicholas’s brother, Sir Philip, and their mother, Lady Joan, lie along the south aisle of the church, also under arched stone canopies. The last remaining effigy is of Lady Isabella’s son John, who died in 1840. It is at this time the effigies are believed to have been constructed, as this family line soon became extinct.

Canopies inside St Mary's church holding effigies. There are nine in all belonging to the de la Beche family dating from 1278 to 1340.

Canopies inside St Mary's church holding effigies. There are nine in all belonging to the de la Beche family dating from 1278 to 1340. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Though the stone monuments can still be seen today, they were vandalized during the Cromwell regime and consequently are badly mutilated, missing limbs and other appendages. The most extreme damage was done to Lady Isabella and Young John, who are both missing their heads. One effigy has disappeared altogether, that of John Ever Afraid.

So who, pray tell, is John Ever Afraid? Legend claims the magnificent stone memorials found in St. Mary’s Church actually belong to giants known as John Long, John Strong, John Never Afraid, and John Ever Afraid. This is speculated to be due to the immense size of the effigies. While little to nothing is said about the prior three, the legend of John Ever Afraid is quite famous. The tale claims that he sold his soul to the Devil for earthly riches. According to their bargain, the Devil could claim John’s soul upon death whether he was buried outside or inside of the church. Tricking the Devil, his body was buried within its walls, and his effigy was placed in an alcove on the outer wall of the church.

Statue of Sir Nicholas De La Beche in Aldworth.

Statue of Sir Nicholas De La Beche in Aldworth. Credit: Peter Reed / Flickr

So what happened to John Ever Afraid? His body is said to have been buried under the wall where the arch appears on the outside. His mystery of his missing effigy may never be solved, though there are theories as to where it ended up. One such theory is that it was moved to Saint Lawrence Church Hungerford.


The authors words..."The last remaining effigy is of Lady Isabella’s son John, who died in 1840"...I do believe that should be 1340...unless they were both very tall and VERY long lived IE: 500 years.

Can these giants be X-rayed or scaned like the Tibeten Monk was to confirm if the bodies are inside ?

Justbod's picture

Fascinating story – thank you!

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature:




We tend to think that everyone who lived in earlier days was smaller than we are. But there was Viking blood in the Norman knights, and The elite were well nourished. They had to be, to fight on horseback. There was a 'giant' of Burford, (Salop). The Cornwallis family persisted up to the early 20th century, and they were still abnormally tall. The last member was nearly 7' and I have known lots of very tall people.

Height or lack of it is about 80% genetic.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Last auction of Stonehenge, 1915.
Stonehenge is arguably the best known prehistoric monument in England, and perhaps even in the world. Today, this ancient monument is under the care of English Heritage, a registered charity that manages over 400 of England’s historic buildings, monuments, and sites.

Myths & Legends

Pagan Origins of Easter
Easter Sunday is a festival and holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world who honour the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred three...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article