The Growth of a Township – Chapter Thirteen – The End of an Era
The death of Queen Victoria found Maltby still in its rural simplicity – and for most villagers still with a greater or lesser degree of poverty. The wagonnettes continued to bring day trippers from smoky Rotherham and Sheffield to enjoy the sylvan beauty of Roche Abbey and its valley and woods. Sandbeck continued in its rural and aristocratic splendor with its farms, estate cottages, Victorian Chapel and the new Chaplain’s House. There was still the full complement of liveried servants.
In the Chapel the family still occupied the gallery, their insignia of three popinjays draped over the balcony. There were deer in the Park. Walking across the Park in the dark, it is said, unwary travellers had been known to fall over the antlers of the sleeping deer!
The late Fred Kitchen, a Maltby local author, wrote a graphic description of the Estate and Sandbeck Hall. His father was a Sandbeck Estate worker, and Fred grew up on the Estate. In 1905 he was twelve and worked as a “scarecrow” for is. 3d. a week. In “Brother to the Ox” Fred has a vivid account of his boyhood love of Sandbeck with its 300 acres park, its vast woods. After the manner of the day his parents were strict Sabbatarians, so he became used to the Private Chapel services. On occasion, he says, his family (being Methodists) would walk the 2-3 miles to Chapel at Maltby.
It was a lovely walk, “flowers all the way”. The Estate school was at Stone a mile up the road from Sandbeck to Maltby. Kitchen says there were at the time about 60 scholars when all were present. He was still a boy when his father died of diabetes. The Earl provided a cottage for the family in Maltby village. Fred had to leave his beloved woods and fields of the Estate. He described his coming to the village: “It had about 300 inhabitants. I counted one grey church, one Wesleyan Chapel, two inns, two butchers, three grocers and four farms”. Having left the Estate, the boy had to find work on a farm. He wrote of the hard work on the farm which began with “taking out the horses at 6.30 a.m.” and continued through an eleven hour day!
In an article written for the Rotherham Advertiser in 1962 Kitchen describes rural Sandbeck at the turn of the Century. A horse used to draw a big lawn-mower across the wide expanse of lawns in front of the House, the horse wearing leather shoes so as not to damage the turf. Between the Chapel and the House were, the servants’ hail, the still room and the kitchens. The stable yard, with the stables all round and the grooms’ and coachmen’s quarters above, was dominated by a great well in the middle. Servants’ hall, still room and kitchen are all gone. The post-box in the wall of the Estate office is a reminder of those days. In the mid-Twentieth Century it still defies the passage of time, and proclaims VR (Victoria Regina).
The Estate Steward, Mr. Jones, cycled from Tickhill each day. Other staff were the grooms and page-boys. The Head Gardener, Mr. Summers, was a person of some distinction. He was a grey-bearded gentleman who drove in state to Doncaster every Saturday in a high-wheeled gig. The Head Gamekeeper lived in a fairly large house on the Estate, The Limes. He had a team of three keepers. Besides these workers there was a large team of servants, farm workers and wood men. The key figure was the ‘Clerk of Works’.
The first full-time Sandbeck Chaplain was Charles Wollaston Mainwaring, MA. He was Chaplain in the 9th Earl’s time from 1862-67. The last of the nine full-time Chaplains was Henry Worsley who left in 1920. In its heyday at the end of the Century Sandbeck indeed provided a fairly full-time job for the Chaplain. Apart from the Sunday Services (morning and evening, and Sunday School) there were the usual Church meetings and, with the large families, much visiting. Doubtless the Chaplain arranged social events and the Cricket Club. In the first decade of the Twentieth Century Henry Fanshawe, Chaplain, founded one of the earliest Boy Scout Troops titled “The Earl of Scarbrough’s Own”. The Misses Ellis and their father had their private school on the Estate, at The Grove nearer to Maltby.
Old residents at Sandbeck remember how until more recent economic changes the Chapel was full – the family in the Gallery, the Head Butler and Housekeeper and other senior servants in the front pew, the rest filled with the staff, with tenant farmers and Estate workers. There were social events for the Estate workers. Those who lived on the Estate in the nearby village of Stainton were collected each Christmas and taken by wagonnette to Sandbeck for the festivities.
One old resident remembered how the Earl’s daughter presented the children with Christmas presents when they had in joyful anticipation reached the end of their thrilling two-mile wagonnette drive! Others, now departed this life, remembered the wonderful children’s party in the House, and the great Christmas Tree in the Ballroom. These, together with the joints of Christmas beef handed out to the families, were highlights in an otherwise unexciting way of life.
Judging by the character of Sandbeck families who go back to the Nineteenth Century this kind of moral Christian expression was beneficial rather than detrimental. The Chapel, of course, upheld the status quo of a great Estate. At the same time there seems to have been a sense of commitment and grace, of dignity and care for others.
Many who, like Fred Kitchen, began life at Sandbeck have said in later years that there was an attraction in the security that Sandbeck gave. It was almost a feudal mini-welfare state. There was little risk of unemployment. Workers were provided with Christmas fare, their children with clothes at Christmas. There was an Estate school, a Chaplain who seems usually to have been pastorally minded. The family at the Big House cared for the Estate families and visited those who were sick.