Area Guide: The beautiful Childwickbury estate
- Credit: Archant
With its imposing entrance lodge on Harpenden Road, the Childwickbury estate is as intriguing as it is eye-catching. We found out what lies behind its magnificent wrought iron gates
Ideally located between St Albans and Harpenden, Childwickbury is a picturesque part of Hertfordshire.
Noted by local historian, Christine Aitken, as “an immaculate hamlet”, there really is no end to the character and beauty of Childwickbury.
Once known as “the dwellings by the well”, the estate has a long and complex history that is still researched and studied today. From the 13th to 19th century, Childwickbury Manor was owned by a St Albans bailiff, an MP, the Mayor of the city and the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire. The latter two owners were members of the Toulmin family, who provided and funded a school in the late 1850s and in 1867 built the church of St Mary’s on Childwick Green.
John Blundell Maple of Maples Fine Furnishing, London, bought the manor in 1883. John donated Clarence Park and The Sisters Hospital to the citizens of St Albans and is interred in the family vault in St Mary’s churchyard.
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Around 1895 the old domestic houses on Childwick Green were pulled down, replaced and extended. Estate houses appeared at Shafford, Beesonend Lane, Ayres End Lane and Maple Cottages, adjacent to Harpenden Common.
The manor’s 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.
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Film director, Stanley Kubrick, and his wife, Christiane, are the most recent owners of the manor, where Stanley finished his directing of The Shining.
Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut were completed there in their entirety, the latter starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Kubrick lived there until his death in 1999. Christiane still lives in the manor house and is a well-known artist. She described Childwickbury as “a small estate community [with] fascinating, colourful owners”.
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church on Childwick Green was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and commissioned by Henry Joseph Toulmin in 1867. The church is adjoined by a schoolroom, where Henry and his wife taught reading and writing to the tenants of the estate.
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 Faith, Hope and Charity windows in the Chancel are in memory of the family and their dedicated work throughout the community.
It’s rare that Childwickbury homes come on the market, but when they do they’re pretty special. Take Ladygrove: the six-bed, three-bath former game keeper’s cottage to the estate recently changed hands for £3,850,000. Advertised as “a fine country retreat with equestrian facilities, wonderful far reaching views and excellent transport links”, it also has its own gym and art studio.
Nearby primary schools include Margaret Wix and Garden Fields (both rated ‘good’ by Ofsted), while secondary schools include Townsend (‘good’) and St Albans Girls’ School (‘outstanding’).
The estate opens its doors to visitors for two popular annual events, Childwickbury Arts Fair in July and Childwickbury Christmas Market in November. Both offer the opportunity to eat, drink and shop in a unique environment, within and around the old stable block. The Arts Fair was founded by Chirstiane Kubrick in 2003, and has grown considerably since then. The Christmas Market began in 2008.
The stable block is also home to monthly oils and watercolour classes, which run for one weekend per month throughout the year. They area taught by Christiane Kubrick, her daughter, Katharina, and Camilla Clutterbuck.