Chapter Ten (Continuation)
The Fourth Earl of Scarborough employed James Paine – architect of the fine Mansion House in Doncaster – to rebuild the Saunderson house. That was between 1765 and 1768. Paine’s brief extended beyond the house itself. It included a Summer house, stables in the grand manner, a nearby farm, and a head gamekeeper’s house, The Limes. The Hail itself was designed to have stately porticos of Corinthian columns. Paine also designed an imposing entrance gate on the Tickhill to Oldcotes Road at Maipas Hill. He also included plans for a Chapel.
With the development of farms and estates in the Eighteenth Century came he fashion of adorning an estate. In the middle of the Eighteenth Century the stateman, Lord Walpole, visited Sandbeck. His comment on the state of Roche was caustic. He said he found the site a “veritable wilderness”. “Roche Abbey”, Walpole said, “was an overgrown wilderness. It is hidden in such a veritable chasm that you might lie concealed there, even from a Squire-Parson. Lord Scarbrough to whom it belongs and who lives next door, neglects it so much as if he were aware of ghosts”.
The Fourth Earl obviously took the great statesman’s comments seriously. He commissioned the famous landscape artist Launcelot (Capability) Brown to landscape the grounds near to the new House, to create lakes and to work upon the Roche Abbey valley. The contract between the Earl and Capability Brown has survived. It states that Capability was to “finish all in the valley of Roach in all parts fixed with Lord Scarborough, with poet’s feeling and painter’s eye beginning at the Hammer Pond and continuing towards Loton in the Moon (Laughton en le Morthen!) as far as Lord Scarborough’s ground goes”. At Roche the visible foundations were grassed. Maltby Beck was diverted to create cascades and islets. The Hall itself was designed to have a space beyond where the Earl trained his horses, sometimes successfully, for the Doncaster Cup and the St. Leger Stakes.
The earliest report on farming in Maltby was made by three East Lothian farmers for the Board of Agriculture in 1794. Describing their journey from Rotherham to Firbeck they wrote, “Saw some common fields of good natural quality at a place we think called Maltby. They were under very bad management”. From the founding’ of Roche Abbey sheep farming became important. The magnesian limestone belt gave natural well-drained pastures suitable for sheep. Throughout the Middle Ages the feudal system prevailed, based on the open field. Indeed right up to the Eighteenth Century Maltby had its three arable fields – Upper Field at the North West end of the village, Hurn Field to the north of the Sheffield to Bawtry Road, and Dale Field to the East of the village.
Much of this arable land must have been enclosed during the Eighteenth Century by agreement, for an Enclosure Award of 1838 concerned only 1241 acres. From the Eighteenth Century this limestone area became typical “sheep and barley land”. The “Norfolk” four-course rotation of turnips, barley, clover, wheat was to be found everywhere. It appears to have become a condition for farm tenancy. Rape was grown for the sheep, and because it was considered excellent manure for the limestone land. The sheep were usually Lincolns, bred for their wool which was sold to West Yorkshire manufacturers.
These land developments and the beauty of the village brought more affluent families to live in Maltby. The Turnpike Act of 1760 provided better roads which encouraged such families. The White Swan Inn in the centre of the village is a reminder that Maltby was on an important route from Rotherham and Sheffield to Tickhill and Bawtry. The road continued under the Turnpike Trust until 1880. The old Toll House on the Rotherham Road was unfortunately demolished in 1958.
Hooton Levitt Hall is first mentioned in 1649. It had “a good estate attached”. There is no record of the building of Maltby Hall which figures much in the life of Maltby. Freeman Bower, a Justice of the Peace and solicitor, appears to have bought the Estate in the Eighteenth Century, and then sold it to a Mr. Bossier. Bower also owned Hooton Levitt Hall where he lived with his family. In June 1770 he gave to the Parish Church an exquisite silver salver with a stem, probably a wine waiter. This object was to be used for “the gathering of the Alms in”.
It is dated from 1658 and was made in London. Coming from the Cromwellian period, it is rare because Cromwell melted down what silver he could lay hands on to provide currency. Thus when Bower donated the plate with his armorial bearings emblazoned it was already over 100 years old. Freeman Bower died at Buxton aged 54 in 1786. he was buried at Maltby on August 2nd.
Thus by the middle of the Eighteenth Century village patterns were changing. The new families were consolidating with Lord Scarbrough becoming more involved in events beyond Maltby. A significant point was when on July 6th 1753 Lord Scarbrough was present at a meeting at the Assembly Rooms at York. Two hundred and seventy-nine members of “the nobility, gentry, clergy and freeholders” met to decide who would best represent Yorkshire in Parliament.
The substantial houses of all these gentry have disappeared. Maltby Hall gave way for the Grammar School. Hooton Levitt Hall was demolished in the 1950s and the land used to build Canadian type bungalows! Maltby Manor was inhabited until about fifty years ago. Then as already recorded, it was allowed to decay until it had to be demolished – a tragic happening, for this house was a fine example of the Elizabethan Manor House. Hellaby Hall still stands but it is empty, falling down and in a sorry state.
The Church Registers give a sad picture of the state of the Parish Church. In 3774 after many years of neglect the Church was in bad structural state. It was decided that in view of these dilapidations and increased congregations it should enlarged. Because of the poverty of Maltby it was decided to appeal to the King for a “brief”. With this authority collections were made “throughout England and Berwick”. The Parish received £1,706. 14s. 1d.
Though Methodism did not come to Maltby until early in the Nineteenth Century the effects of its insistence on the social value of human virtue were being felt in society. Virtue brought its material rewards. John Wesley sadly wrote towards the end of his life: “The Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away”.
His words echo the experience of the earlier Benedictines and the Cistercians in Maltby. Their virtue became their downfall. And Wesley’s words were prophetic for a community like Maltby where agriculture and coal mining would in due course bring wealth to a few. The mid-Twentieth Century brought more material prosperity to a larger number of the population. By the Twentieth Century not only the spirit of religion was vanishing but the “form” as well.