Chapter Seven (Continuation)
Nicholas Saunderson also acquired extensive woodlands at nearby Stainton and cottages at Maltby. His growing prosperity decided to build him a new house at Sandbeck. It was to replace the one in which his mother and step-father lived. It had to be a house fitting the estate of a member of the growing class of landed gentry. There is a representation of this house in an Estate map of 1714. It appears as a tall, three-storied building with gables. In the 1620s, Nicholas has obviously decided to leave his native Lincolnshire and make Sandbeck his home.
The new house was completed in time for Nicholas to reside in it for a short time before his death in 1630. There may have been a private chapel in this second Sandbeck House. There is a record of the Vicar of Maltby riding the 3½ miles to conduct divine worship at Sandbeck. The work on the new house began on 1626. Saunderson employed a builder and a mason. They gave nothing but trouble. On the agreement made with them Saunderson wrote, “Arrant knaves both of them. They performed nothing accordingly, but got my money and never measured their work”.
“Cowboy” builders have ever been with us! In the building instructions for this second house there is mention of the original Manor House. Having built up and consolidated the farms, Nicholas and Mildred produced a large family. The Saundersons, like other landed families, had arrived! In spite of his new Sandbeck and Maltby Estates, Nicholas maintained his more humble and simple Lincolnshire way of life. His activities are described in his diary of 1607-22.
It describes the leasing of land, the rearing of sheep, the selling of wool and timber. The picture is of a man on the move, encouraging his workers. Dame Mildred shared his farming activities. By the 1620s much more of the estate was let out.. Sandbeck was assuming its future role. There was to be a great House surrounded by parklands, woods and tenanted farms.
Nicholas Saunderson’s dedication to his farms did not deter him from entering public life. He became M.P. for Grimsby in his native Lincolnshire in 1625. Other honours came. He was knighted by James I in 1603 at Belvoir as he travelled South for James’s Coronation. It seems to have been James’s habit to create knighthoods and Baronetcies for financial reasons! Thus in 1612 Sir Nicholas was created a Baronet. In 1627 came his final accolade – he was made Viscount Castleton – but only in the Irish peerage. He died in 1630.
With the closure of the Convent at Arthington the “patronage” of the Church of St. Bartholomew, Maltby passed to Henry VIII. The Crown was indeed Supreme Head of the Church of England. In 1545 he appointed William Powell Vicar. The parishioners would be confronted by changes in the pattern of their Church organisation. It is difficult to achieve a picture of the parish in view of the great changes carried out by Henry and his children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. The confusion would be all the greater for the interlude when Mary Tudor (the champion of the old ways) ruled from 1553 to 1558. Professor A. G. Dickens describes the “last medievil English gentleman” in an essay.
It is the nearest we can get to a picture of parish life in these confused times. The “gentleman” was Robert Parkyn, Rector of Adwick-le-Street near Doncaster. He died in 1569. His Rectorship covered all the changes under these different monarchs. Adwick is only a few miles from Maltby, so in a sense Parkyn, in his writings, gives a picture for other villages in his district besides his own.
He speaks first of Henry’s ruthless methods in destroying the monasteries and the old social order, while at the same time remaining conservative about the Church’s doctrines. With the Ascension of Henry’s sickly son, Edward, Parkyn writes of the drastic changes in doctrine – the Prayer Book in English, the changes in the arrangement of the Church building. Then came Mary Tudor. Parkyn speaks of the return to “old ways” until the Ascension of Elizabeth.
Bishops’ reports during the reign of Elizabeth show the Church in confusion about worship and discipline; and give a picture of buidings falling into grave disrepair. The records of Rectors and Vicars at Maltby show that Powell was not removed by the reactionary Mary, and was Vicar for many years. Maybe his sympathies were with the dispossessed monks.
As the country settled into the new order of things the old, simple pattern of life continued in Maltby. Instead of the Manorial Lord, the Vicar and Churchwardens ruled. As before, the Churchwardens were elected annually and, as in he old days, collected the rates and maintained the Church fabric.
In Elizabeth’s reign parishes were expected to keep a register of births, marriages and deaths. Maltby is one of those fortunate parishes whose Registers have been preserved. They began in 1597 and record events which were of significance in Maltby’s life. Except for the life of the new aristocracy, the merchants and yeoman farmers, the Registers present a picture of a village suffering from recurrent poverty and plague. In the entries for 1623 there is a sad entry. It states the two “travelling women” died at Roche. The register says: “Buried at Maltby, two strangers or travelling women that dyed at Roche about xiii November and twenty December 1623.”
While the Saundersons were consolidating and moving towards the creation of a great English Country Estate, others of merchant class were attracted to the remote and beautiful limestone village. The first Mention of Maltby Hall appears during the reign of Charles I. An “Inquisition Post Mortem” was taken of Anthony Wright. It is the only Seventeenth Century mention of the Hall which occupied the commanding site where now stands Maltby Comprehensive School.
From the Eighteenth Century onwards Maltby Hall figures prominently in Maltby’s history. At the same time, one William Spencer of Bramley (3 miles distant from Maltby), built in 1620 “from its foundations” Hooton Levitt Hall. It stood until the 1950s on the limestone spur opposite to Maltby Hall. Spencer settled his son Thomas in the Hall. New wealth and new families were invading the beautiful village.