Chapter Three – The Normans – Masters of the World
The Normans, who entered the English inheritance, were a harsh and violent race. They were the closest of all Western people to the barbarian strain in the Continental order.
‘They produced little in art or learning and nothing in literature that could be set beside the work of the Englishmen. But politically, they were masters of the World’, (Prof. Stenton – Anglo-Saxon England).
The Doomsday Book of 1066 provides the first firm evidence of Maltby’s history. Elsi, the Saxon Earl of Tickhill and Maltby, is listed in Doomsday as possessing land at Maltby and nearby Hellaby – four carucates of land, three mills, eighteen ploughs and a wood suitable for pasture. The mills, already mentioned, go back into the Dark Ages.
Elsi’s woods and lands were sited along the little Maltby valley with its streams and mills. West of Maltby, the stream was called the Cornwell. Eastwards, it was known as Maltby Dyke, or Beck. Besides powering the important mills, the Beck was the boundary between the Manor of Elsi and the neighbouring ‘aula’ of Laughton which was in possession of an ill-fated young Saxon Prince, Earl Edwin, brother to the powerful Morcar of Northumberland. With Elsi, Doomsday also mentions a lesser Thane, Siward, who held a manor at Hooton Levitt in the aula of Laughton. This Manor later became part of the parish of Maltby.
Morcar of Northumberland, his brother Earl Edwin and Siward of Hooton Levitt all figure in the power struggle of 1066, which ended in the conquest of England. Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, invaded Yorkshire. King Harold of England was not present when the invaders appeared on the River Ouse near to York. The defence was in the hands of his henchmen, Morcar and Edwin of Maltby and Laughton.
The Norwegians were defeated at Fulford. Later Harold won the decisive battle of Stamford Bridge. He marched South to be defeated by William of Normandy at Hastings. Through Morcar, Edwin and Siward Maltby had a close link with these events. They were picked out by William to be among his English henchmen.
From the time of William’s victory at Hastings, Maltby’s story moves from the last of the Saxon Lords, Elsi of Tickhill and Siward. The powerful Norman families dominated the scene. New social and economic patterns emerged. King Harold’s defeat sealed Elsi’s fate. Perhaps it was fortunate for him that he died before William deposed him. Compared with the powerful Earl Morcar and Earl Edwin he was small fry, a local tenant of these great Saxons.
Among Elsi’s holdings were Maltby, Tickhill and the area we now know as Sandbeck. All were granted by William to one of his most trusted grandees, Roger de Busli. He was marked out for great things! His grants from his master extended far beyond Tickhill and Maltby. Two of Roger’s companions, William de Warren and the Earl of Morton, were granted many Manors. They became a formidable trio in our district. They were the heralds of a new and revolutionary economic and social order. William must have judged Roger the greatest of the three. His grants included 170 Manors in Nottinghamshire.
A third of his possessions were in South Yorkshire. He had further Manors in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. He must have become a Vice Regent for William in the district. His Yorkshire Manors lay in a line from Wentworth, west of Rotherham as far as Barnby Don to the east of Doncaster. Tickhill became the centre of Roger’s South Yorkshire activities. He fortified the place with a great castle. William decreed that his nominees must have the same legal status as the Saxon Thanes they had supplanted. Thus Roger held Tickhill on the same basis Elsi had done. It was a holding ‘in part’ with the rest held by villeins and boarders.
For the average Englishman who lived from the Accession of King Edward the Confessor in 1043 AD, to the death of William of Normandy in 1087, the Conquest must have seemed an unmitigated disaster. Yet William developed a system of economics, administration and law which, in the early feudal system had it’s beginnings in Roman and Teutonic Europe. The same would be true of the ecclesiastical organisation. The parish system, as we know it in Western Europe, had been slowly developing over the Saxon period. It was closely linked to the feudal village order.
Elsi’s lands would be cultivated and organised on the already existing ‘open field’ system. There would now be perhaps forty families, including boarders and Serfs, within the Manor of Maltby, each with it’s ‘strip’ allocation of the open fields. The aim of the Norman Manorial system was economic self-sufficiency. External trade was regarded as undesirable.
The Manor of Maltby would be divided into the demesne, (the Home Farm), and the villenagium, (the land allocated to the villagers). Beyond these areas was the meadow land for the use of all, and the ‘waste’. This was common land for the pasturing of the animals. In later times the question of ownership of these common lands became a bone of contention between the Lord of the Manor and the villagers. Occasionally, it still is!
The standard of life of Maltby’s villeins was perhaps not as harsh as might be imagined. They would not be unduly oppressed. Their commitment to work for the Lord of the Manor was probably not more that two days a week. Indeed the lowest class of villeins were required to work for the Manor only on Mondays. They came to be called the lundinarii, (the Monday men). Compared with today the standard of living would be low.
On the other hand, the villagers were not liable to the mischances which our highly individualist economy entails. There was no fear of unemployment. Neither old age nor sickness spelt the economic disaster for a family which our capitalist society of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries has done! When a villein died his widow was allowed to retain his holding in return for such services as his family could render to the Lord of the Manor.
Far north though it is, Maltby is typical of the swiftly developing, social, religious and economic order. The Church plays a vital part in these developments.
‘The identification of the universal Church with the whole of organised society is the fundamental feature which distinguishes the Middle Ages from earlier and later periods of history’, (Prof. R W Southern, Western Society and the Church of the Middle Ages).
Church and State together maintained an order based on community, rather than individual possession and aggrandizement. Maltby was a fair example of this. The Norman Lord of Maltby and Tickhill did not strictly own his lands. He was the tenant of the King, from whose ownership land was held – an all embracing nationalization. In the history of Maltby in the next 400 years is seen how this concept changed. Church and State drifted apart with the consequent stress on the individual and his claims.