Childe of Hale
John Middleton was born in Hale in 1578, a normal and healthy baby of humble peasant stock. Middleton grew to a height of nine feet and three inches (2.8m), so tall it is said, that he had to sleep with his feet sticking out of the window of his tiny cottage. Because of his ‘formidable appearance’ Middleton was employed as a bodyguard by a local landlord called Gilbert Ireland. In 1617 on his way back from Scotland King James I (King James VI of Scotland) stopped to knight Ireland and in doing so heard of his gigantic protector. Both master and servant were invited to visit the king’s court and a fine outfit of purple, red and gold was specially made for Middleton. In London John beat the king’s champion wrestler and in doing so broke the man’s thumb. Embarrassed by the defeat and displeased with the amount of money many of his subjects had lost in betting on the match, James sent the Childe home with the substantial amount of twenty pounds for his troubles. Unfortunately, jealous of his wealth and taking advantage of his apparently slow wits, Middleton’s companions mugged him on the journey back to Hale. John Middleton returned to the village penniless and remained there until he died in 1623.It is recorded that the Childe and his master visited Brasenose College Oxford (Ireland was himself, a graduate and senior member of the college) where Middleton had his portrait painted. The fact that there are only three portraits of Middleton in existence and that two remain at the college shows not only that he was there, but also that he was enough of a celebrity to warrant such attention. In fact Brasenose rowing club’s first eight still wear the “Childe of Hale colours” of purple, yellow and red in honour of their visitor. Further evidence can be found in the diary of Samuel Pepys who wrote about seeing the painted outline of the Childe’s hand (which remains to this day) at the college. The photograph is not of a statue but a tree trunk carved to size of the "Childe" which can be found opposite St Mary's church in Hale where he is buried.