Childwickbury - a short history of the estate, the stud and its owners

Home of the Toulmin, Blundell Maple and Joel families

By Christine Aitken

Photo:Childwick Green

Childwick Green

Christine Aitken

Childwickbury was and still is a large private estate situated in the Parish of St Michael and located between the (A5) Redbourn Road and the (A1081/A6) Harpenden Road just south of Harpenden.

Early owners

During the time of the Saxon kings the Manor of Childwick belonged to the Abbot and Monks of St Albans and continued so until the dissolution of the monastery. During the 13th century Geoffrey de Childwyk, a bailiff of St Albans lived at the manor and a large barn and other buildings were built around 1396-1401. At the Dissolution in 1540 this manor came to the Crown and it was granted to a William Cavendish who in June 1552 surrendered it to the King, in exchange for lands in the County of Derby which eventually became the Chatsworth Estate. From 1550 until 1666 it belonged to the Rowce family of Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. It was then sold to Joshua Lomax of Lancashire and a manor house was built, possibly in the reign of James II. Various members of the Lomax family had possession, including J. Lomax M.P. for St Albans in 1708.

The Toulmins

In 1854 the estate was offered for sale and was bought by Henry Heyman Toulmin, a merchant shipping owner, who was looking for a quiet and peaceful place in which to raise his family of five children. Childwick Bury was ideal. He was appointed High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1866 and he appears a contented man, happy to live out his days in the countryside.

Photo:Henry J Toulmin JP

Henry J Toulmin JP

St Albans Museum Archive

On his death in 1871 the estate passed to his son Henry Joseph Toulmin, a barrister, a conservative, four times Mayor of St Albans and Freeman of the City. The Toulmin family had enlarged the Mansion by adding wings to it and were the first major improvers of the estate. In 1866/67 they provided and funded the first school and schoolmistress.

Photo:St Mary's Church, Childwick Green

St Mary's Church, Childwick Green

Christine Aitken

The Toulmin’s built the small church of St Mary’s at the same time as the schoolroom. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who was a friend of theirs and erected at their expense to service the spiritual needs of their tenants and employees. The building doubled as a school during the week and a church on a Sunday.

Following the period of ‘high farming' characteristic of the 1840s onwards, this estate of 900 acres with three farms and a water corn mill had produced good yields and therefore good rents. However a succession of relatively bad harvests during the 1870s, combined with an agricultural depression which devastated most parts of 19th century Britain, meant the Toulmin family found themselves unable to afford to maintain the estate. In 1883, after 30 years ownership they very reluctantly put Childwickbury up for sale, left Childwickbury and returned to their beloved Pré House at Gorhambury.

John Blundell Maple

Photo:John & Emily Blundell Maple

John & Emily Blundell Maple

St Albans Museum Archive

The new owner of the estate was John Blundell Maple of ‘Maples‘, the fine furnishing store in Tottenham Court Road, London. In buying Childwickbury he made good his aspirations to be a country squire and join the ranks of the landed gentry who were his customers in Tottenham Court Road.

When in 1883 John Blundell Maple became the next owner of the Estate he, in time, enlarged the Church and schoolroom. The beautiful marble font in the church is in memory of his two youngest daughters, Winifred and Dorothy, who had died in early childhood. There is also a memorial tablet to his grand-daughter Kathleen who died in 1917 aged 19 years. In January 1890, on a piece of land within the Chapel grounds, was erected the Maple family vault. Consecrated in February 1890 it contains the coffins of Sir John and Lady Maple, their two daughters and one grand-daughter. There are no graves in the churchyard.

Childwickbury Stud

He indulged himself in what became the grand passion of his life - breeding and racing horses. He built up Childwick Stud Farm into the largest horse breeding establishment in Britain. He had some 220 boxes at Childwick and came to own more mares than any other raiser of thoroughbred stock in the country.

In 1889 he purchased two parcels of land adjacent to Childwickbury which included ‘Childwick Hall’. Later to become the Stud House. Later he bought ‘Beeson End Farm’ plus ‘Childwick Hall Farm’ and 6 cottages. This acreage eventually became the Childwick Stud and an impressive building programme was set in motion.

He also bought extensive training grounds at Newmarket. By the middle 1890s the mammoth Childwick Stud Farm & Newmarket Racing Establishment impressed everyone and gave the wealthy retailer real satisfaction to move up to Suffolk for Newmarket race meetings and regale his friends with lavish entertainment.

Photo:OS map showing the extent of the estate at the time it was sold in 1906.

OS map showing the extent of the estate at the time it was sold in 1906.

During the 1890s John Blundell Maple invested heavily in land. In 1893 he purchased 25 acres of land in St Albans and developed, at his own expense, Clarence Park. Also in 1893 he acquired the bordering 'Hawkswick Estate', to the south of Childwickbury. In Harpenden he purchased Little Bamville Farm, Limbrick Hall Farm, West End Farm, Cross Farm and the 225 acre Ayres End Estate. There were many more parcels of land snapped up by him and the acreage of the Childwickbury Estate doubled during Sir John’s tenure to 1749 acres.


Photo:The Sisters Hospital in 1893 - site of St Albans City hospital

The Sisters Hospital in 1893 - site of St Albans City hospital

St Albans Museum Archive

Sir John was a generous and philanthropic man. In 1893 he built and equipped at his own expense 'The Sisters’ Hospital’, known to us all now as the site of St Albans City Hospital. This is what it looked like when first built.

In 1897 he gave £120,000 to re-build and re-fit University College Hospital, London. When in 1903 costs had escalated to £200,000, he agreed to pay the extra money.

Photo:Entrance lodge at the main gates, built in 1897

Entrance lodge at the main gates, built in 1897

Christine Aitken

In addition a massive re-building programme was started around 1895. The old domestic houses on Childwick Green were pulled down and replaced and many more added. Estate houses appeared at Shafford, Beesonend Lane, Ayres End Lane and Maple Cottages adjacent to Harpenden Common.

The imposing entrance Lodge with its Scottish baronial style turret and wrought iron gates was built in 1897. As was ‘ Childwick Green House ’ , the Jacobean style house on the main entrance drive to Childwick Green. The Land Agent resided here.

Maple Convalescent Home and Maple Almshouses ’ in Harpenden were established in 1897 to service the needs of the employees of his London store.

Photo:Maple Almshouses, Clarence Road, Harpenden

Maple Almshouses, Clarence Road, Harpenden

Christine Aitken

Photo:Maple Convalescent Home, late Ackrill House, Hollybush Lane, Harpenden

Maple Convalescent Home, late Ackrill House, Hollybush Lane, Harpenden

Christine Aitken


The almshouses consisted of 16 one-bedroom flats - and beside them was the convalescent home. This is how they look today situated at the top of Clarence Road in Harpenden. The charity remained in being and the almshouses occupied for 93 years until they were sold in 1990 to a developer and are now privately owned.

On November 24th 1903 Sir John Blundell Maple died at Childwickbury. He was only 58. There was the private funeral at Childwickbury and interment in the family vault at St Mary’s on Childwick Green. In 1906 Lady Maple eventually put the Childwickbury Estate up for sale.

'Magnificent Stabling' attracted Jack Joel           

It was probably the ‘ Magnificent Stabling ’ i.e The Childwick Stud that first interested Jack Barnato Joel in 1906 but on looking over the whole Childwickbury enterprise he could not fail to have been impressed. So the Joel family sold their country estate at Northaw in Hertfordshire and moved into the Mansion in the Spring of 1907.

Photo:Isaac 'Jack' Barnato Joel - 1862-1940

Isaac 'Jack' Barnato Joel - 1862-1940

Childwickbury Trust Archive

Jack Barnato Joel the new owner of Childwickbury was in 1906 a very wealthy diamond and gold merchant.  His family originated from the East End of London. His great-grandfather had been a rabbi, his grandfather Isaac Isaacs had been a dealer in old clothes and his father Joel Joel had run the ’King of Prussia’ public house. His mother Kate was the sister of the founder of the Joel fortune.

Photo:Barnett (Barney Barnato) Isaacs - 1852-1897

Barnett (Barney Barnato) Isaacs - 1852-1897

Childwickbury Trust Archive

And this is the founder of the Joel fortune, Barnett Isaacs. The subject of many stories over the years, the pugnacious ‘ Barney Barnato ’ , borrowed £50 from his mother and travelled to South Africa in 1873 intent on making his fortune.

From Cape Town he journeyed to Kimberley, worked extremely hard and through sheer hard work, cunning and being in the right place at the right time quickly became a very rich man. He founded the family business of Barnato Diamond Mining Company. In 1880, Jack and his two brothers Woolf and Solly followed their uncle to South Africa and the gold mining industries of Johannesburg and here the whole family prospered.

In the U.K. Jack Joel, like his brothers Woolf and Solly, became an enthusiastic and successful racehorse owner heading the list of winning owners three times, in 1908, 1913 and 1914.

Photo:Harry Joel 'Jim' Joel - 1894-1992

Harry Joel 'Jim' Joel - 1894-1992

Childwickbury Trust Archive

When Jack Joel died in 1940, his son Harry ‘Jim’ Joel inherited the estate and seamlessly carried on the family interests at Childwickbury. Jim Joel and his father were amongst the most successful British owner/breeders for almost the whole of the 20th century. Their colours of a black shirt and scarlet cap were carried to success on 1,696 occasions between 1900 and 1992. Down the decades of the 20th century the business of the estate quietly revolved around the Stud, the Joel family and the winter shooting season.

By the mid-1970 ’ s Mr H J Joel decided to move out of Childwick Mansion and into Childwick Hall to live at the centre of his stud enterprise - surrounded by his beloved horses. Whilst he retained the Stud and Stud lands the Childwickbury Estate of 1100 acres was put on the market and on Wednesday 19th July 1978 it was sold in Lots at an Auction held in The City Hall, St Albans.

The Childwick Mansion and parkland was bought by Mr and Mrs Stanley Kubrick as a family home. Properties not retained by the Childwick Trust as pensioner homes went into private ownership.

In March 1992 Mr Joel died at the age of 97. He was affectionately referred to as ‘The Grand Old Man of Racing’. The Childwickbury Stud and Hedges Farm which service it were sold in early 1993 to a company headed by the Marquesa de Moratalla and continued as a Stud until the autumn of 2011 when the Stud and 500 acres was put up for sale. *

Photo:Childwick Green

Childwick Green

Christine Aitken

Childwick Green as it is today. Beautifully maintained by the Trust and the houses mostly in private ownership. I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of Childwickbury through the last 150 years and now have a better understanding of this small and still very private corner of Hertfordshire.

© Christine Aitken, 2012, author of the book ‘Childwickbury’

This is a summary of the talk to the Society in May 2011.  Society members subsequently visited Childwickbury Stud in August 2011.

*  The Childwickbury Stud was bought in early 1993 by a company headed by the Marquesa de Moratalla and remained as a Stud until the Autumn of 2011 when it was sold to Mr & Mrs Paul Flatt. After extensive refurbishment, The Childwickbury Stud re-opened in early 2015 thus securing a future for these famous paddocks and stud buildings. 

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 17/10/2012.

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