HISTORY FEATURE: Free education comes to Maltby ...177 years before government introduced it

THERE was free education for the children of Maltby 177 years before an act of parliament granted it for youngsters across the country.

That was thanks to a unique fundraising venture which was set up in 1714 — and continues to help pupils in the town more than three centuries later.

In 1714, James Saunderson, Viscount Castleton of Sandbeck and Lord of the Manor of Maltby, decided that he wanted to “promote learning and the education of youth in the knowledge of their duty towards God and man”.

The result of this was that on February 10 that year, the viscount — along with the vicar and freeholders — signed an indenture agreeing to set aside 12 acres which would provide for a schoolmaster to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to the children of the village.

The Maltby School Lands Foundation had been formed.

The idea was that the land would be let, with the income used to pay the schoolmaster to teach the poorer children of Maltby for free.

The 12 acres were managed by the viscount, along with his heirs and three trustees.

Meanwhile, the schoolmaster lived and taught at Rose Cottage — the first school in Maltby — which used to stand at the corner of Meadow Lane and Blyth Road.

In the early years of the 20th century, the same building would become home to farm-lad-turned author Fred Kitchen.

Nine years after setting up the Maltby School Lands Foundation, James Saunderson died. He left all of his estates to Thomas Lumley, later the 3rd Earl of Scarbrough.

Rev George Rolleston, Vicar of Maltby and Stainton, led a project to build another school in Maltby in 1823. This would also be for the benefit of the most deprived children.

The school was formally linked with the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, and it became subject to government inspections.

All students moved over and Rose Cottage ceased to be used for lessons, but was kept as the house of the schoolmaster, Mr Holgate, until his death in 1878.

The foundation continued to use the income from the endowed land towards general expenses of what became known as the National School, which was opened up to all religious denominations.

School fees were no longer paid in full for some youngsters, but there were still reductions offered to parents.

Labourers paid 3d a week for their children, while tradesmen needed to stump up 4d, and established farmers were landed with a 6d bill.

It wasn’t until 1891 — 177 years after the foundation began — that the government established free teaching for children across the country with the Elementary Education Act.

Meanwhile in Maltby, the old Church School had been rebuilt in the 1870s and continued to deliver lessons until the coal era arrived.

As the first shafts at Maltby Main Colliery were being sunk in 1910, it was decided that the Church School could not accommodate the growing number of children in the village.

A temporary educational building — known as the Tin School — was provided in the pit yard until 1912, when the old Crags School was built at a cost of £10,000 and big enough for 1,000 children.

Maltby Hall School then opened in 1926, followed five years later by the grammar school.

Before then, some Maltby children had travelled into Rotherham for a grammar school education, with the foundation providing help towards transport costs.

Preceding 1937 only three Maltby students had gone to university compared to the hundreds who do so in modern times.

St Mary’s Primary opened in 1940 to care for the Catholic community, with the Manor Primary following in 1952, having been delayed by the Second World War.

Lilly Hall Primary joined the fold in 1960 and Redwood came a decade later.

The changes have accommodated Maltby’s growing population, but the support of the foundation has remained a constant throughout the centuries. Archives show that the grants given have been to help children with the costs of school uniform, PE kit and even shoes.

Scholarships have been given out, and a modern example of the foundation’s work was the greenhouse recently added at Redwood.

The plants being grown there will be heading for the mining tubs which are part of the miners’ memorial opposite the Don John pub — helping the next generation maintain a connection with Maltby’s pit heritage despite the colliery’s closure a decade ago.

The foundation gives an annual grant to Maltby Academy and one every other year to the six primary schools. The current chairman of the foundation’s trustees is Jim Fletcher, who spent 32 years as a governor at the secondary school.

“The previous chairman was Ron Buck, and I was involved with Ron in union matters at the pit,” he said.

“Ron got me involved in the lands trust because he knew I was a school governor, and thought I would be an ideal person to be a trustee. That was over 20 years ago.

“Ron was a lovely man, who was all about Maltby. It ran through him like a stick of rock.”

When Ron (85) died in January 2018, Jim stepped up from vice to chairman of the group, which generally has about half a dozen trustees.

“We meet a couple of times a year,” said Jim (71). “I give them updates, we look at admissions, we look at how all the primaries are doing, and we discuss the exam results at the academy.

“We want to see the academy become an outstanding Ofsted school, and we’re only a gnat’s away from that now.”

The money is taken from rents and charges coming from the Sandbeck estate — the likes of electricity and water bills, along with money from the allotment and farmland rents.

Richard Lumley, 13th Earl of Scarbrough, said: “My family inherited the Maltby School Lands Foundation when James Saunderson, the Earl of Castletown, died in 1723 and left his property in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to his cousin, Thomas Lumley, who later became the third Earl of Scarbrough.

“Three hundred years later, I am very proud to be a trustee of this charity that still benefits students and schools in Maltby to this day.”

Lord Scarbrough and the foundation’s other trustees regularly make school visits to hand out the cheques and see the benefits of the scheme.

Jim said: “It’s incredible to be involved in something that’s been going for so long and continues to this day for the benefit of the kids and schools in Maltby.

“It’s a hidden treasure that not many people know about.

“I think it’s completely unique in the country, where the local lord gives money in this way.”

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