Chapter One – Small Beginnings
A Cistercian Monastery, a Norman Castle, a village church, sheep and crops on the limestone hills, rich seams of coal far below the limestone, a clear stream running through the valley. These are the ingredients for this story of one English village.
The people who have made the story are many and varied. They include Elsi and Siward, local Saxon Earls; Roger de Busli, a powerful henchman of William of Normandy; the Abbots and monks of the Monastery of St. Mary of the Rock; the entrepreneurs and speculators thrown up by Henry VIII’s new economic order. Then came those who developed the farms and woods – a shrewd Lincolnshire farmer and his descendants; an ancient aristocratic family; the humble villagers of the Estate.
“With the Twentieth Century came the colliery owners and the vast army of miners to exploit the ‘Black Diamonds’ half a mile below the green and pleasant farms. Finally, the Twentieth Century motorways brought the commuter estates.”
The village is Maltby. It lies six miles east of Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Multimap.com has a map so that visitors can see where Maltby is. (This link will open in this window, so to come back to this page you will need to use your browsers BACK button.)
It’s length from West to East is over six miles and reaches to the Nottinghamshire border. In it’s beginning it was but one of the remote medieval villages of England. It’s story is remarkable. From the time of the Norman Conquest (1066) until the Twentieth Century Maltby’s population remained fairly static – 700 to 800 souls. By the mid-1980’s, it was approximately 20,000. (Population as of 2001 Census was 17,247 according to the Office of National Statistics).
Until the proving of the rich coal seams half a mile below the surface, Maltby was a strikingly beautiful, if poor, village on the Magnesian limestone. Now it is an amorphous sprawl of commuter housing, Council estates and miners’ dwellings. Yet Maltby’s ancient rural beauty still asserts itself in the rolling farmlands stretching Eastwards to the Vale of Trent.
The dramatic change from remote rural peace and poverty arrived when the mining engineers reached a rich belt of coal known as the Barnsley Seam. Below this seam lie other workable seams with romantic names – Swallow Wood, Parkgate, Haugh Moor. Above them lies the thick bed of Magnesian limestone which has provided excellent and beautiful building material over the centuries. The parish has it’s ancient boundaries. It has the advantage of lying in a fault in the limestone. This fault provides Maltby’s lovely valley and holds many clear springs and streams, including Maltby Dyke, which worked the village mills. To this day, (1989), Maltby still contains twelve or more farms in spite of the Twentieth Century industrialization.
There is no record of Primitive Man occupying this remote area. Until the Iron Age (c. 550 B.C. to 43 A.D.) the swamps and forests of the Vale of Trent would be a prohibitive factor. No ancient cave dwellings have been found in Maltby, no tumili. A few artifacts have been found in neighbouring Tickhill and Laughton and a tumulus in nearby Dinnington. In the end the fertile land must have attracted some settlers. There are evidence, we are told, of Iron Age and Romano-British settlements.
With the Roman Occupation (A.D. 43 to 410) there is a little more evidence of the beginnings of Maltby. Whatever British settlements there were must have changed with the coming of the Romans. The fierce Brigantian tribes resisted the power of Rome. Maltby would be in a Brigantian orbit. A Roman road has been traced in an East-West driection passing near present-day Maltby. It may have been a trade route for lead and silver mined further West in the Derbyshire hills. The metal could have been transported to the inland port of Bawtry, (a few miles East of Maltby). The River Idle is navigable from Bawtry to the Trent, whence goods could be transported to the Humber and thence to the North Sea.
The road which passed close to Maltby would also be a link between the Roman fort at Templeborough, (Rotherham), and the Roman military Colony at Lincoln. Between 54 and 60 A.D. the 9th Roman Legion was sent to the Don Valley in which Templeborough lies. The Brigantes managed to make a pact with the Romans which enabled them to keep their independencies in which Maltby’s valley would probably be included.
Evidence has been found in the Maltby area of the peaceful activities which followed the Brigantian-Roman pact. Villas and settlements grew up in the district. Coins and pottery made by Romano-Britons have been discovered in and around Maltby. In 1929 shards of Roman pottery were found at the gate leading from Blyth Road, Maltby to Roche Abbey. A coin of the reign of Septimus Severus, (193 to 211 A.D.), has been found and another of the reign of Constantine II, (337 to 361 A.D.).
In 1934 the Curator of Rotherham Museum, (Mr E Bland), excavated at Maltby. The site showed traces of Romano-British occupation including pottery of the Second Century A.D. One item was a parringer of black-ware, another a cooking jar. Yet another small excavation in 1939 revealed the remains of Second Century Roman Pottery. In 1945, a large find was made at Folds Farm on the extreme Eastern boundary of the parish. It was a hoard of 1,203 coins from the Third Century A.D. With the coins were the remains of a cooking pot.
As with other such contemporary discoveries, a Romano-British farmer must have hidden the coins in the pot because of the threat of raids or because of inflation during this troubled time in the Roman Occupation. There have been other like discoveries in the Maltby area as the building of new housing estates has proceeded. Perhaps the most important evidence for Romano-British civilian society in and around Maltby was the discovery of a Roman Villa and tile factory at Oldcotes on Maltby’s Eastern boundary.
All the discoveries around Maltby are of a civilian nature. It is therefore fair to assume that after the first harsh years of the Occupation, the area developed as a farming community ruled from the nearby villas of Stancil and Oldcotes. The pattern had been set for the development of the European feudal method of administration. After Rome departed and the Saxons came, the Maltby area was still ruled from Tickhill.