Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Maple, John Blundell

MAPLE, Sir JOHN BLUNDELL, first baronet (1845–1903), merchant and sportsman, born on 1 March 1845, at 145 Tottenham Court Road, was elder son of John Maple (d. 1900) by his wife Emily Blundell. The father, after some years as an assistant with Messrs. Atkinson in Westminster Bridge Road, started in 1840 in Tottenham Court Road, under the name Maple & Cook, a furnishing and drapery business, which, after ten years of steady progress, grew to great dimensions. John, who was educated at Crawford College and King's College school, joined his father in 1862 and greatly aided in the development of the concern. Although the father took part in the business till near his death in 1900, the son from 1880 was practically head of the firm. In 1891 it was converted into a limited liability company (with a capital of 2,000,000l.) of which Maple was chairman.

Maple's abundant energies were not absorbed by his business. He contested unsuccessfully the parliamentary division of South St. Pancras as a conservative in 1885, but in 1887, at a bye-election, became member for the Dulwich division, and represented that constituency until his death. In parliament he safeguarded the interests of the shop assistants, and for twelve years was the president of the Voluntary Early Closing Association. He was also a member of the London County Council. He was knighted on Lord Salisbury's resignation of office in 1892, and at Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897 received a baronetcy.

Maple's association with the turf was marked by characteristic boldness and thoroughness. In 1883 he registered the racing colours of 'sky blue, black sleeves, gold cap,' which were eventually changed to 'white and gold stripes, claret cap.' For several years he raced under the pseudonym of 'Mr. Childwick,' from the name of his country seat, Childwickbury, near St. Albans, where he established an extensive breeding stud. Previously he had run a few horses in hunter races under the nom de course of 'Mr. Hodges,' the name of one of his friends. Although during the later years of his life the farm was overstocked, he bred many useful racehorses. During the twenty-one years that he had horses in training they won 544 races of the value of 180,109l. In each of eight seasons his winnings ran into five figures. His most successful year was 1901, when twenty-four of his horses won fifty-eight races worth 21,304l., a total which placed him at the head of the winning owners.

In addition to breeding thoroughbreds, he was a bold buyer of blood stock. He gave 4000 guineas for the yearling filly Priestess, and 6000 guineas for the yearling colt Childwick, with which he won the Cesarewitch in 1894. Childwick long ranked as the highest-priced yearling bought by auction, but the record is now held by Sceptre, who made 10,000 guineas. Maple purchased Common from Lord Alington and Sir Frederic Johnstone for 15,000 guineas the day after that horse won the St. Leger in 1891.

Among Maple's horses bred at Childwickbury were Siffleuse (1893) and Nun Nicer (1898), each of which won the One Thousand Guineas, and Mackintosh, a very useful horse that was unbeaten as a three-year-old. With the colt Kirkconnel, which he had bought, Maple won the Two Thousand Guineas in 1895. In 1885 Maple's Royal Hampton ran third to Melton and Paradox in the Derby, and Kirkconnel was third to Sir Visto and Curzon in 1895. In 1888, after Fred Archer's death, Maple purchased Falmouth House, Newmarket. Percy Peck was then his private trainer. In 1895 Peck was succeeded by J. Day, who the following year gave way to William Waugh. In September 1903 Maple was electod a member of the Jockey Club.

Maple died at Childwickbury, St. Albans, on 24 Nov. 1903, and was interred in the churchyard there. His estate was valued for probate at 2,153,000l. During his life he had bestowed large sums on charitable institutions. He had undertaken in 1897 the rebuilding of University College Hospital, which immediately adjoined his business premises. The work was nearly completed at the time of his death, and he empowered his executors to carry the scheme through, with the proviso that the total cost was not to exceed 200,000l. The new building was opened by the duke of Connaught on Nov. 1900. He married in 1874 Emily Harriet, daughter of Moses Merryweather of Clapham, but loft no heir. His only daughter married first Baron von Eckardstein, from whom she obtained a divorce, and secondly Captain Archibald Weigall, M.P. for the Horncastle division of Lincolnshire. A painted portrait by Sir Luke Fildes is in the possession of his widow, who married Mr. Montague Ballard in 1906. A cartoon portrait by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1891.

[Notes supplied by Mr. Charles Hodges; The Sportsman, 25 Nov. 1903; Kingsclere, by John Porter; Ruff's Guide to the Turf; The Times, 25 Nov. 1903; Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage.]

E. M.