The History of St. Mary’s, Childwick Green

St Mary’s Church, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was built in 1867 by Henry Joseph Toulmin, the owner of the Childwickbury estate, when he found that his tenants were reluctant to undertake the long walk to the Parish Church of St Michael, St Albans. The Bishop appointed him a lay reader to enable him to conduct simple services morning and evening. He also buiIt the adjoining schoolroom, where he and his wife held a night school for their tenants, many of them elderly, and taught them to read and write. The Faith, Hope and Charity windows in the Chancel are in memory of Henry Toulmin and his wife Emily.

In 1881 when the eighth of their fourteen children was born, the Toulmins decided they could no longer afford to live at Childwickbury and moved to the Pre in St Albans. The estate was then sold to Sir John Blundel Maple (of Maple’s furnishings), who enlarged the Church and schoolroom. The schoolroom was used as a school until 1925, and re-opened for evacuees during the second world war.

The beautiful marble font is in memory of the two young Maple daughters who died in early childhood; there is also a memorial tablet to their grand-daughter. When Sir John died in 1903, Lady Maple allowed the people of St Michael’s and St Mary’s to make the Church their own for a nominal sum, to ensure that it would always belong to them. The Maple vault is in the churchyard and contains the coffins of Sir John and Lady Maple and their three daughters.

Mr H J Joel who inherited the estate from his father in 1940, made many generous gifts to the church.

The Maunday money was given to Edwin May, a Chorister and Church Warden of St Mary’s, by the Queen when she distributed the Royal Maunday in St Albans Abbey in 1957, was bequeathed by him to the Church.

The Hamlet of Childwick Green

This timeless hamlet lies on the Childwick Bury estate and is approached along a winding drive which in spring is brilliant with daffodils with a backdrop of trees highlighted with wild cherry. Later this drive is ablaze with rhododendrons and azaleas. From Childwick Green a further walk goes past the manor house of Childwick Bury. The present house dates back to 1666 with additions made by consecutive owners. There are no traces of the original Benedictine Abbey and monastic buildings dating from about 1077.

The monks then learned a vocation and supplied the Abbey with milk – hence the name Child wick or young people’s dairy farm. A chequered history finally ended in the dissolution by Henry VIII and the monastery passed into private hands. In 1666 the Lomax family bought the house and lived there for 200 years before selling to the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, Mr Henry Toulmin. His son was mainly responsible for improving the living standards of the estate staff and under his direction the Church of St Mary was built.

Eventually, Sir John Maple, of the London furniture store, bought and restored the village and built brick houses to replace the uncomfortable workers’ cottages but kept the Jacobean house and forge, probably the oldest original building on the estate.

In 1906 the estate was auctioned and bought by Mr J B Joel whose son, Mr Harry (Jim) Joel carried on the tradition of keeping one of the best horse studs in the country, breeding many famous winners. Finally, the family sold a large part of the estate, but kept the stud. It was auctioned in separate lots and the manor was sold privately to Stanley Kubrick, the film director.

The house is not open to the public, but there are some lovely traffic free walks through the estate to Batchwood, or to Shafford where the Ver Valley walk can be joined.

Christine Aitken has published a book about the Childwickbury estate.