With its roots founded during Roman times, even before the Roman settlement at York, the town is steeped in history. It borders the Howardian Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the expansive Castle Howard Estate lies 5 miles to the north-west.

Roman beginnings

The earliest established building in the town dates back to the late first century AD. The Roman auxiliary fort of Derventio was established under Governor Agricol, the Gallo-Roman general who was responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. During the 11th century, a large timber Norman castle, Malton Castle, was built in what is now Castle Garden, adjacent to the fort of Derventio. This was rebuilt in stone by the time Richard the Lionheart visited the castle in 1189.

The castle site was inherited by Lord William Eure in 1544. In 1569, Eure’s son Ralph built a new house on the castle site and in 1602, and the house was rebuilt again in a much grander style. The property was spectacular and was described by the diarist and gunpowder plotter Sir Henry Slingsby as the rival of many other great houses in Britain. This house was subsequently demolished in 1674 and today, Malton’s Old Lodge Hotel is the only remaining fragment of the once vast Jacobean property.

The 18th and 19th centuries: Influence of The Fitzwilliam Malton Estate

The Borough of Malton was purchased by Thomas Watson Wentworth in 1713. Thomas’s son, the 1st Marquess of Rockingham, inherited the family’s interests in 1723 and it was he that funded extensive work to make the River Derwent navigable up to Malton. Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (who was twice Prime Minster) made further investments and was involved in the creation of the turnpike road between York and Scarborough which passed through Malton. The Malton Estate passed to William Fitzwilliam, the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam in 1782. Successive Earls’ Fitzwilliam would continue to invest in the construction of more homes, workshops, factories and shop premises in the Town – as well as in public buildings such as schools, hospitals and meeting halls.

The industrial revolution and poverty in Malton

As the start of the 19th century approached and as the Industrial Revolution took hold, Malton became increasingly peripheral to manufacturing Britain.  The famine in 1800 came as an addition to the distress in cloth manufacturing and the disruption of trade in the town, fuelling the social depravation of the time. The famine was not confined to Malton’s linen weavers and on 8 January 1800 William Hastings, Earl Fitzwilliam’s Malton Agent, estimated that 1,000 people in the town (out of a total population at the time of just over 5,000), were “the most necessitous to receive a pint of soup and a penny bun” from the soup shop that his relief committee had set up in one of the outbuildings at the Old Lodge.

Malton: a success story for rural market towns

The Fitzwilliam family has been investing in Malton Estate since 1713. Fitzwilliam Malton Estate is the trading name used by Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company, for the Company's interests in Malton. Today, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, the grandson of the last Earl Fitzwilliam, and his son and heir Tom Naylor-Leyland, look after the interests of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, and continue to invest in the town.  Tom is a director of the Talbot Hotel.  Tom and his wife Alice have a family home in the centre of Malton and work with the promotion of the town. He helps organise the Food Festivals, monthly Food Markets, and the Made in Malton Project.

"Malton has become a success story for rural market towns and in the last few years, it's been dubbed The Food Capital of Yorkshire;  in 2018, for the second year running, the Sunday Times proclaimed Malton as one of the 10 ten most desirable places to live in the north of England."