The Victorian Era – Self-help and Charity
The Nineteenth Century found Maltby little changed from the pattern of earlier centuries. Throughout the new century the population remained fairly static. In 1801 there were 600 villagers. By 1851 the population had risen to 924 and then declined to 792 in 1901. Until 1816 the Vicar still lived in a Seventeenth Century peasant’s cottage next to the Church. Maltby Hall was occupied by a John Cook. In religion Maltby was still strictly conformist and Establishment. Methodism came late to the village. The Vicar rode the three and a half miles to Sandbeck to lead worship in the Chapel – Evensong and Mattins on alternate Sundays.
Though Sandbeck still dominated, new families, like the Cooks at the Hall, were coming into the Parish occupying the other large houses. Sandbeck Park had more servants and workers. A survey of the Estate in 1845 describes Sandbeck as an area well-wooded and beautiful. The survey was made by William Downes. He reported that “The Mansion presents a handsome elevation standing in an extensive park, beautifully timbered and well-stocked with deer. To the Mansion are attached Pleasure Grounds, Walks, Kitchen Gardens, Hot Houses, Grapevines and every necessary outbuilding to render it suitable for a Nobleman, a Gentleman with an Establishment of £10,000 a year”. Sandbeck apart, the Napoleonic Wars must have affected the tenant farmers and the poor villagers adversely. Their complaints are described in the Sandbeck records.
The early district Directories give a picture of a continuing, fairly self-sufficient economy in the village. Better means of communication produced by the turnpike roads and the stage coaches brought new, more affluent families to the village. White’s Directory for 1838 lists five shoemakers! Other trades listed are shopkeepers (4), masons (3), tailors, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, a saddler, a butcher, a millwright. The schoolmaster, the surgeon and the Vicar are all mentioned. In addition White lists “three gentlemen”. They appear to have had no describable profession! They obviously had enough capital to live the life of leisure as described in Jane Austen’s novels. Two of the masons listed in 1838 were John and William Ridgway. They and their descendants were master masons. There are many examples of their work in Maltby Churchyard in which they built the Nineteenth Century burial vault of the Lumley. Life was becoming more organised in the little village. The various Eighteenth Century small charities were consolidated in one fund.
The end of the Napoleonic Wars brought new problems for the poor. Taxes and rates were high. Wages were low. The vexed question of Common Land enclosure arose again, in a less amicable atmosphere than in a previous century.
By 1821 the new families of influence in the village were beginning to assert their power. In 1807 there was a famous election. William Wilberforce’s Abolition of Slavery Bill was the main issue for the new Parliament. The eleven recorded voters for Maltby and Hooton Levitt supported Wilberforce’s Bill, which was also supported by Viscount Milton, heir to Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth, Rotherham. Beaumont Broadbent, Maltby’s Vicar, was one of those who went to York for the election. The rest included George Flower, the village surgeon, four farmers, two labourers, one woodcutter and a joiner. They must each have owned freehold land in the parish.
In 1816 a significant figure appeared in Maltby – the new Vicar, George Rolleston, M.A. (Oxford). He stayed in Maltby for over 50 years until his death in 1868. Rolleston must have been the typical “squarson” (squire and parson) of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. One of his descendants said of him, “He was more famed for his good looks and his horsemanship than for his holiness”! He was a pluralist, since he apparently had at least one other “living” in addition to Maltby. The humble peasant’s cottage was obviously not for George Rolleston. It would have been far below a squarson’s dignity! He managed to purchase Maltby Hall from the Cook family. From the high vantage of the Hall his could oversee his flock and his parish!
In the next election of 1841 the electors numbered 30 including 17 from Hooton Levitt. George Rolleston appeared in the voters’ lists. He was an Establishment man, a staunch Tory! He was the second largest landowner in the village. The voters were equally divided between Whig and Tory.
In the 1850s the social patterns in Maltby were changing. Roads were somewhat improved. Folk in Rotherham and Sheffield learned about the beauty of Maltby’s countryside, and were able to enjoy it on a day trip. The attractions of the Valley of Roche brought other activities. The Rotherham Press reported in 1847 a “great Temperance Rally” at Roche Abbey. The report stated that “the Seven Men of Preston”, who boasted they were the first to “sign the Pledge in Britain”, were present. A vast multitude attended. We are not told in the Press what the effect was on the beer-drinkers, inns and ale houses of Maltby!