Chapter Eight – The Seventeenth Century – Poverty, Affluence, Conformity
The new social patterns brought new social groups. There was an increase in the number of financiers, professional classes, doctors and the like. With them there went the yeoman farmer. In the Seventeenth Century a village like Maltby could be divided into four classes – the peers, the gentry, the yeoman farmers (a class of middle people in a condition between gentlemen, cottagers and peasants). Last saw the largest class, the common people, perhaps ¾ of the whole population. Little is known of them.
There is evidence about this in Maltbys sparse records for the Seventeenth Century. There were some champions of the poor. Such were men of intelligence who usually belonged to the merchant class. The rich at this time were often extremely rich. The poor were always poor. These laboring people, cottagers and paupers found it desperately hard to make ends meet. The unemployed and the great proportion of the employed poor depended on private charity and public poor relief to save them from starvation. It was in this period that some of the small, local Maltby charities appeared.
Thomas Tankersley, for instance, gave land for the benefit of the poor. There is record of this bequest. “The 9th May 1645 Thomas Tankersley, yeoman of Lincolnshire, gave and confirmed to James and William Stead and others as feoffes in trust one close of pasture to the use of the poorest people of Maltby and the value thereof to be distributed yearly by the same feoffes at the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord”. This and such other records give a grim picture of the state of the majority of the people while the likes of the Saundersons increased in riches and possessions.
The Seventeenth Century saw many and swift changes in English life. The records suggest that they did not much affect Maltby. For instance there is no record of any Maltbeian as a member of the cause of the Seventeenth Century Pilgrim Fathers, whose centre of operation was but, a few miles away at Scrooby in Nottinghamshire. Maltby was obviously a village of great poverty and conformity.
Just beyond the Parish boundary at Hellaby, one emergent family of merchants was becoming prominent. This family, the Fretwells, appear in the early Seventeenth Century Registers. They were numbered among the “entry”! Like other up-and-coming families, they were buying and selling land around Maltby. They had humble beginnings in Maltby and Hellaby. It is recorded that in 1610 a Richard Fretwell, carpenter, married Lucy Herring of Hooton Levitt. One branch of the family lived in Hellaby Hall. The family is remembered in a quaint wall-tablet on the Don Jon Hotel: “James Fretwell built this, 1676”.
The tablet must originally have been attached to a wall in some earlier building, because the Don Jon is a modern structure. Although the Fretwells had inter-married with other “gentry”, they passed out of Maltbys history. Before this happened Ralph Fretwell, a significant landowner, who lived at Hellaby Hall, went to Barbados in the West Indies. He was a sugar planter and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Barbados. In 1671 Fretwell was convinced by George Fox, the Founder of the Quaker Movement. He became a Quaker and in 1674 was removed from his post as Chief Justice because of his beliefs.
He suffered numerous prosecutions for allowing the negro Children to attend religious meetings in his house, for not paying his Church dues and for refusing to carry out Militia duties. However, his single-mindedness and witness served him well materially. He gained enough wealth to build the present Hellaby Hall in 1692. It is a dramatic house with Dutch gables. It is now sadly in an advanced state of decay. Ralph Fretwell also became rich enough to leave each of his three daughters £5,000 – a very large sum in those days!
Robert Parkins was appointed Vicar of Maltby by Queen Elisabeth in 1602. He served many years until 1645 when the Commonwealth Puritan Parliament passed the Solemn League and Covenant banishing the Book of Common Prayer and the organisation of the Church of England. The clergy were ordered to use a Presbyterian Directory of Worship. Was Parkins one of the 5,000 clergy who refused and were deposed?. The new Puritan rulers dictated the affairs of the Church no less than the Tudors.
As ever, Maltby Church had fabric problems! The Parish Registers for 1650 reported that “the great bell did burst and was cast anew in Doncaster. The workman had five pounds six shillings and eight pence for his work, and twelve pence for every pound the bell did weigh more when recast.” Not only did the parish have this bell recast, but added two more to the belfry. All of them are still in use in the Twentieth Century. In 1657, the Registers say, the Church steeple was whitewashed – a common practice in the Seventeenth Century.
Even in these quiet days paltry did not avoid crimes The Registers record that John Nevison the Yorkshire highwayman was executed in May 1638 . He had been betrayed to the magistrates by his discarded mistress. The court deposition stated that “one was done at Maltby in Yorkshire by three – Nevison, Brac and Tankard. They took £200 from one Malin on his way through Maultby to Gainsborough Market”.
Apart from this isolated murder Maltby moved through the Seventeenth Century in an exemplary if poverty-stricken way. Farming, stone-masonry, quarrying, domestic service remained the main occupations. The new professional families were becoming established in the large Maltby houses – Maltby Manor House, Maltby Hall, Hooton Levitt Hall and Hellaby Hall. The poor of the village – the vast majority – remained as poor and ignorant as ever.
After the Cromwellian Commonwealth England went back to a Monarchy with Charles II. His son, James II, was an avowed Roman Catholic. He was deposed in 1689 and William of Orange, a staunch Protestant, was invited to be King of England. Sandbecks’s Saunderson family shrewdly espoused the Protestantism of William. While leading families at this time were still committed to the established Church, it was obvious that Nationalism and a sort of Patriotism took precedence over the claims of religious commitment.
By 1630 Sandbeck had acquired all the characteristics needful for an Eighteenth Century classical estate. The Sanderson continued throughout the century enjoying the amenities which old Sir Nicholas’s business acumen and modest way of life had created for the family. The time tor the heroic and dramatic in Maltby and Sandbeck was past. The Third Viscount Castleton died in 1655. On his death the Estates passed to his brother George, who became Fourth Viscount. George died in 1714. James, one of his six sons, became Fifth Viscount.
On his accession the lands and title James gave fourteen acres of land for the provision of a school and schoolmaster in Maltby. This was the first organised attempt at education in the village. Castleton was a migratory to the deed. Other signatories were obviously important local men. Some of them “made their mark”. The deed was made on February 10th, 1714. It stated that the Viscount’s gift was “for a free school for the poor of the town in reading, writing and common arithmetic”.
Eight free scholars were to be nominated by the Lord of the Manor. The Schoolmaster was to have the use of a house and garden. It is thought that this “Endowed School” was the building known as Rose Cottage in Meadow Lane, off Blyth Road. It was demolished some years ago.
During his ten years as owner of the Sandbeck and Maltby estates, Viscount Nicholas Castleton resorted to the growing practice by the new landowners of the enclosure of common lands. The enclosure of common land began 1637. Viscount Nicholas was granted Letters Patent enclose 500 acres of the Manor of Maltby, Stainton and Bagley Grange (Tickhil1) for park and free warren. As a prelude the question was raised in 1636 under the enclosure Acts. The villagers, not completely subservient, came to an amicable arrangement with the Viscount.
It is recorded in the Parish Registers that the “Inhabitants of Maltbie, or the most of them, Compound agree with the Right Honourable Viscount Castleton for the exchange of the Sandbeck Nook parcel of The Common of Maltby with a parcell of ground within the next to Woodlea conditionally that so long as the inhabitants enjoyed this parcels of ground within Norwood it is now agreed and cast so long as the said Viscount Carleton should enjoy the said Sandbeck Nook and no otherwise”.
Five hundred acres was a very large amount to be enclosed. The rights of the people of Maltby and neighbouring Manors had been maintained and guaranteed during the close community system of the feudal era. These rights were now being challenged and eroded by the new masters who often had only a cursory care for those who lived and worked in the newly developed estates. This Seventeenth Century Enclosure problem has from time to time been a bone of contention between the villagers and the Lord of the Manor of Maltby.