Childwickbury

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Childwickbury' page

Christine Aitken

A brief history

By Christine Aitken

On the A1081 road between St Albans and Harpenden stand these magnificent gates and entrance lodge. A rhododendron flanked drive leads to the immaculate hamlet of Childwick Green and the estate of Childwickbury. This was and still is a private estate situated about three miles to the north of St Albans.

According to 'The Victorian History of the counties of England':- '. . . Childwick means ' The dwellings by the well' and the manor of Childwick (Childwica, Childwick Magna or Childwickbury) was a 14th part of a Knights fee given to St Albans Abbey...and was assigned to provide bread and ale for the monastery.'

During the 13th century the manor belonged to Geoffrey de Childwyk, a bailiff of St Albans and a large barn and other buildings were built between 1396 - 1401.

On the dissolution of the monastery the manor was granted in 1540 to Sir William Cavendish. In 1550 it was conveyed to Thomas Rowce of Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. In 1666 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 until in 1854 the estate was offered for sale.

It was then bought by Henry Heyman Toulmin, a merchant shipping owner and High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1866, who was looking for a quiet place in the country to raise his large family. On his death in 1871 the estate passed to his son Henry Joseph Toulmin, a barrister, a J.P., a conservative, four times Mayor of St Albans and Freeman of the City.

The Toulmin family were the first major improvers of the estate. They provided and funded a school in the late 1850's and in 1866/67 they built at their own expense the small church of St Mary's on Childwick Green which was designed by their friend Sir George Gilbert Scott. In 1883 and after 30 years ownership, Henry Joseph Toulmin very reluctantly put Childwickbury up for sale.

The new owner was John Blundell Maple of 'Maples', the fine furnishing store in London. In buying Childwickbury he made good his aspirations to be a country squire by joining the ranks of the landed gentry who were his customers in Tottenham Court Road. He indulged himself in what became the grand passion of his life - breeding and racing horses and built up Childwick Stud Farm into the largest horse breeding establishment in Britain.

During the 1890's John Blundell Maple also invested heavily in land and the acreage of the Childwickbury Estate doubled during his 20 year tenure to 1749 acres. In addition a massive domestic re-building programme was started in the early 1890's. Sir John was a very generous and philanthropic man. The University College Hospital in London was funded by him and he financed and donated Clarence Park and The Sisters Hospital to the citizens of St Albans. In November 1903, at the age of 58, Sir John Blundell Maple died at Childwickbury. He is interred in the family vault in St Mary's churchyard.

Lady Maple put the Childwickbury Estate up for sale in 1906 and it was then purchased by Jack B Joel, a diamond and gold merchant. Jack Joel also bred many successful horses at the Childwickbury Stud and he headed the list of winning owners three times, in 1908, 1913 and 1914.

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.

By the mid-1970's and for personal reasons Mr H J Joel decided to move out of Childwick Mansion and into Childwick Hall wishing to live at the centre of his stud enterprise - surrounded by his beloved horses. He retained the Stud and Stud lands and the Childwickbury Estate was put on the market. The estate of 1100 acres was advertised and bought in its entirety by a land property company who then re-sold it in Lots at an auction held in The City Hall, St Albans in July 1978.

There was a great deal of local interest in the sale for here was a rare opportunity to purchase a part of history. Childwick Bury Manor was purchased by Mr and Mrs Stanley Kubrick, Cheapside Farm was bought by the Luton Hoo Estate and nearly all the estate houses went into private hands. So, virtually overnight, a very private haven became a public place.

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 Marquese de Moratalla and remain as a Stud to the present day.

This page was added by Christine Aitken on 11/06/2009.
Comments about this page

I have fond memories of Childwick as I lived there for a while and my father and uncle drove Jim Joel. I understand a book has been written but can't find any information about it. Do you know of any such book and if so how can I obtain one. Thank you

By Roger Burdock
On 06/11/2011

Childwickbury by Christine Aitken is advertised in the Publications section of this website.

By Brian Bending
On 06/11/2011

Hi, I used to live on the Stud too:- The only book I know of that covers the Joel Family and details the family is Ace of Diamonds: the story of Solomon Barnato Joel, written by Stanhope Joel, published by Muller. You can usually pick this up on abebooks.com.

By David Buxton
On 18/01/2012

hi, does anyone know of any family still alive connected to the Joel family, trying to do a family tree and i know my grandmothers father side is from the Joel family. we believe his name was david Joel. i cant seem to find the book mentioned above. thanks.

By shawn levy
On 22/01/2013

I grew up on the estate between 1955 and 1968 and lived with my Grandfather James Christie the Estates Manager at Viccars House. Has anyone out there got a link for old plans maps and photos of the Estate especially Viccars House formally known as Child Green House. I'm researching about Sir George Clausen artist who lived at Viccars House between 1881 & 1884. His time at Childwick laid down the foundations of his highly successful career as an artist and member of the RoyalAcademy

By Norman Cooke
On 17/01/2014

My great uncle Albert Sparrow and his wife Ethel lived at Hedges Farm and Electoral Rolls show they lived at Childwickbury. He worked as a Chauffeur. How could I find out more? Thanks

By JEAN O'NEILL
On 25/03/2014

I am trying to trace information on a cook who worked for Mr Joel in the 1930's she was called Ellen Baker. I would love to hear from anyone who has information about her.

By sue henley
On 05/05/2014

My grandparents both worked on the estate, Alf and Vera Hawkes,anyone remember them?

By Alex Harris
On 04/09/2014

My grandfather William George Wilkinson worked for Sir John Blundell Maple/The Childwickbury Estate at or around the beginning of the 1900's. He was involved with horses and I believe involved in the St Albans steeplechase run on Harpenden common.

Does anyone have any further  information about my grandfather?

By chris wilkinson
On 07/05/2015

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