Area Guide: The historic Hertfordshire gem that is Childwickbury
- Credit: Archant
With its historic buildings, manicured green spaces and relaxed country feel, Childwickbury is a special place to visit.
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’, Childwickbury 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 were 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 Kubrick, 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, one of the many that take part in the annual Childwickbury Arts Fair.
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.
Though Childwickbury is a small hamlet with a distinctly historic and rural feel, there is no end to the convenient transport routes for city dwellers or those looking for a change of scene. Regular bus services in Childwickbury stop at the nearby towns of St Albans and Harpenden, both within three miles. High-speed trains from St Albans City station offer easy access to central London for commuters with a 20-minute journey time.
The nearby historic villages of Sandridge, Wheathampstead and Redbourn are all at Childwickbury’s fingertips, with endless opportunities for avid walkers, cyclists and adventurers plus quaint country pubs, independent stores and historic hotspots for the leisure seekers or culture vultures in your party.
This Hertfordshire hamlet conceals a cluster of listed and historical properties, several of which were once part of the Childwickbury Estate. Christine described Childwickbury as “a small estate community [with] fascinating, colourful owners”.
Spacious accommodation, manicured gardens and acres of private land make Childwickbury the perfect place to set up home. With property listings of up to £4m, Childwickbury property comes with a hefty price tag but with equestrian facilities, paddocks, woodland and acres of grassland we can’t blame them!
What price would you pay for a piece of history? Ladygrove, the £4m property in question, was once the gamekeeper’s cottage on the Childwickbury Estate and its stable and stable yard dates back to previous owners who passionately bred, trained and raced horses.
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’).
In 2003 the Childwickbury Estate first opened its gates to a new art event for St Albans. It has since grown into a hugely popular three day fair for visitors and participants.
Over 60 artists take part in live demonstrations and classes, Christiane Kubrick -Childwickbury manor’s owner being one of them. Live music, food stalls, workshops, activities and art for sale make this a festival for everyone, with Childwickbury making quite a name for itself in the art world.
Exhibits include glasswork, illustrations, jewellery, paintings, pottery, woodwork, prints and sculpture.
Take a stroll around Childwickbury and you will be transported to another era, meet the friendly locals and enjoy the indulgent tranquility of this historic gem.