Chapter Thirteen Part II
Two miles up the road from Sandbeck, a new community was about to be formed. In 1910 a new colliery village was being planned to house the miners who would come to the great new colliery planned to exist next door to Sandbeck Estate. For many young people at Sandbeck the colliery would prove to be attractive. It would provide a bigger wage than the Estate, even if security would be less. The Great War accelerated the breakdown of the Sandbeck Estate.
In a way Sandbeck never recovered after 1920. Its farms and agricultural pattern remained, but the old community was declining. Those who left for the new mining Maltby took with them the graces and wholesome attitudes they had learned through Sandbeck.
The social developments brought better transport. Members of the “professional classes” were attracted to Maltby. Indeed Maltby with its beautiful valley and its better communications was an attractive place in which to live. A few houses had been built. The 1901 Census showed a population which had remained static over the centuries. It stood at 716. By 1911 it had declined to 700.
The new residents with their better means and initiative contributed a great deal to the village. Until this time Maltby and Sandbeck had been dominated by the Lords of the Manor, and the capitalist farmers and landowners. The end of the Nineteenth Century brought Dr. Crossley and his daughters to the parish. They lived in a large limestone house on Blyth Road. Up at Hooton Levitt lived Col. Winder and his family.
At The Grove, Blyth Road, Mr. Ebenezer Ellis and his daughters Mary and Bertha had a school. Colonel Mackenzie Smith and his wife Lady Mabel (sister to the Earl Fitzwilliam) resided at Maltby Hall. Maltby Manor House was occupied by a Church warden of Maltby, Dr. Wade, and his family. Of these magnificent buildings in Maltby most have, like the limestone cottages, been demolished.
At the turn of the Century, Maltby was still typical of the Established order which depended on the disparity between the “haves” and the poverty-stricken “have-nots”. But some at least of these in comers had a social conscience. Lady Mabel Smith was a champion of the Workers’ Educational Association. She was a political radical and a High Church Anglican. Through Lady Mabel’s influence W.E.A. and Sheffield University Classes were held in Maltby at this early time. It was in such local classes that Fred Kitchen was able to learn about literature and to develop his gift for writing.
The Misses Bertha and Mary Ellis of the Grove School were active in organizing a Reading Room and classes including woodwork. Dr. Crossley’s daughters worked more “within the system”. Miss Mary was choirmistress at the Parish Church, and both of the sisters influenced the life of the village church. It is said that Mary Crossley gave each of her choir boys a new suit at Christmas. Perhaps Fred Kitchen’s reaction was typical of the poor in Maltby. He took Jesus’ comment on his Feeding of the Five Thousand – “You followed me not because you saw the miracle, but because you ate the loaves and were filled”. But, in fact, the ladies were helping young people who were very unlikely to acquire a new suit every year!
Tragically the much revered Dr. Crossley was killed on St. Paul’s Day 1906 by Fawcett’s dray in the fog. Maltby had sinister fame at that time. The public hangman, John Askern, was a member of an old Maltby family. Other members of the family had been for generations Sexton and Verger of the Parish Church.
An old Maltby resident, the late Mrs. Winifred Bramall, left a fascinating picture of life in this small village now that the more affluent had descended on it. There were rook shooting parties from Maltby Hall at the right season. The village women were employed in making rook pies from the unfortunate victims of the shoot. There was then a grand supper in the village school. The ancient inn, The White Swan, was kept by a lady called Mrs. Hartshorn.
I well remember the Church and in particular the Crossley family. Miss Mary was organist and choir mistress for many years until financial misfortune befell the family and she and her sister left Maltby. Colonel Winder of Hooton Levitt Hall always read the lessons. I remember him walking to the lectern from an area the Winders had made their family pew. The family was hidden from the rest of the worshipers by a large pillar!
The services were always well attended by the farming families. Lady Mabel Smith and her husband were regular attenders. Bertha and Mary Ellis walked their school the miles from The Grove each Sunday. And Mr and Mrs. Cadman of Roche Abbey House attended, driving up in a chaise with a white pony.
Splendid days indeed! Had Crossley and Askern lived but a few more years they would have witnessed the industrial development which was about to overtake Maitby’s rural peace.
This period of Maltby’s history is marked by two people of great interest. Each had particular gifts from which Maltby benefited. Though coming from very different cultural and economic backgrounds Fred Kitchen and Lady Mabel Smith had a great deal in common in their understanding of ordinary humanity and its needs.
Fred Kitchen grew up on Sandbeck Estate where his father was a coachman. When Fred was eleven his father died and the family moved to an Estate house in Maltby. His father’s death meant, in Fred’s words, that he could not now be “put to something”. He had to find whatever job he could. This meant attending the hiring fairs to be engaged as a farm servant. His commitment to agricultural work lasted all his working life. In later life he was a school caretaker in Derbyshire. The combination of Fred Kitchen’s apprenticeship in literature and his great gift of simple, descriptive writing enabled him to produce vivid stories of life in Maltby and Sandbeck. The chief among his works are “Brother to the ox” and “The Ploughman homeward plods”.
Lady Mabel Smith was one of the most significant residents at Maltby Hall. She stood out even in comparison to Squarson Rolleston, Freeman Bower and Miss White, the Principal of the young ladies’ college at the Hall. After Miss White left, the Hall was vacant for some time. Then at the end of Nineteenth Century Col. Mackenzie Smith bought it. As mentioned previously he was the grandson of Dr. Catty, the eminent Vicar of Ecclesfield. In August 1899 Mackenzie Smith married at St. George’s, Hanover Square, Lady Mabel Smith, sister of Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth House, Rotherham, the largest private house in England! Lady Mabel was a true democrat. She was a faithful and practicing Christian.
She was, as well, an ardent political radical of her day; a socialist with a deep care for the common people at a time when they needed every champion they could muster. Lady Mabel was well-known as a social worker. She was an indefatigable leader in the Workers’ Educational Association and organised classes in Maltby – from which Fred Kitchen and others in the new mining community benefited greatly. She was an authority on health matters. Her trenchant criticisms of the Health Authority arrangements in her own district and in others earned her a reputation for fearless honesty.
She was in her day regarded as one of the greatest social democrats of South Yorkshire. In her later life Lady Mabel moved to live in the Parson Cross, a Sheffield slum clearance estate. She became a member of St. Cecilia’s Church (staffed by monks from the Anglican Monastery of Keiham) where she was able co express her faith in the “High Anglican” worship she loved, and to be involved in the social needs of the parish.