Neston Female Friendly Society – Fiftieth Anniversary

Stella Young

Chester Chronicle, 4 June, 1864

The anniversary of this society was celebrated on Thursday last with, more than ordinary eclat. The Neston ” Ladies Club,” as it is generally designated, has now been in existence 50 years, having been established on the 1st of January, 1814, and consequently the jubilee of this very useful institution created considerable interest not only in that particular district but throughout the hundred of “Wirral generally. The objects of the society are of most praiseworthy character, and it is much to the credit of the gentry of Neston and Parkgate that since its formation they have taken a lively interest in its prosperity, many of the influential ladies residing there having become honorary members. The contributions of the members vary according to the age at which they enter, from 8d to 1s. 6d a month, and for these payments 4s a week is allowed during sickness, 10s at confinement, and a certain amount for funerals. At present the club consists of 129 members—35 honorary, 87 benefit and superannuated.

The present lady patroness of the institution is Mrs Lyon. The anniversary of the society is always celebrated by a procession, but the display of Thursday (as has been already intimated) exceeded any former demonstration. The weather was beautifully fine, and hundreds of people were attracted to Neston from Parkgate, Heswall, Birkenhead, and other places. The wakes, which were also held at the same time, doubtless induced many persons to pay a visit to the locality; but then, the wakes at Neston are not to be compared with those village gatherings at Tranmere in Whitsun week. At Neston there was amusement for the working population without riot snd gambling, and although a few cases of drunkenness were observable, the greatest order was preserved by the county constabulary, under the direction of Mr. Superintendent Hammond.

The members of the club assembled in the National Schoolroom at half-past two o’clock, when they formed into procession. There were 20 honorary and 60 benefit members present. The procession was made up the leading ladies of the district, as well as the wives and daughters of the most humble working men. The ladies differed much in age and appearance, and amongst them were to be seen the sprightly damsel of eighteen or twenty years of age and the infirm matron of seventy or eighty. All were dressed in aneat and becoming manner, there being no attempt on the part the honorary members to outdo in style and appearance their poorer sisters. Each member carried a white wand, with a large bouquet of flowers, and a rosette on the breast. The procession was headed by Mrs. Lyon, the lady patroness, who was escorted on one side by the Rev. Mr. Gleadowe, vicar of Neston, and on the other the Rev. George Salt, rector of St Bridget’s, Chester. The Rev. Mark Coxon, rector of HeswelL the Rev. T. B. Berry, curate of Neston, and the Rev. A. F. Grenfell also walked in the procession. Having been duly marshalled, the ladies proceeded to the parish church, preceded by the excellent band belonging to the lst Cheshire Militia, under the leadership of Mr Hull.

The sacred edifice was crowded. The prayers were read the Rev. Mr. Berry, and the lessons the Rev. Mr. Gleadowe. The sermon was preached the Rev. G. Salt Chester, who selected his text from Matthew ii. 18 —”It is not good that man should be alone.” As the reverend gentleman delivered his text a smile was perceptible on the countenance of many a young female, who doubtless wished that the bachelor part of the congregation would take the ” hint” given them from the pulpit. The preacher said that as it was through woman that sin entered into the world, so it was to woman— from whom the Saviour came—we might trace those ideas and works which elevate and humanise society. Having dwelt upon the various kinds of degenerate women —the idle, the thoughtless, the angry, the corrupted, the quarrelsome— the reverend gentleman pointed out the holy women of the Old Testament and the pious ones of the New Testament showing how they helped the destinies of man. Upon the married woman he urged submissive devotion the domestic and spiritual duties of life, so that her husband might say of her, “Houses and riches are the heritages of our fathers; but a good wife is from the Lord.” Upon the unmarried women he urged never to sacrifice to the false tastes of men the distinctive occupations of their sex, but to act as Christian sisters and daughters, so that they might be comer-stones at home, “polished after the similitude of a palace.” After stating that this was the jubilee of the club, the preacher closed with some very apposite remarks to female servants, pointing out the great good they might accomplish in families by the consistent fidelity of their service from the example of Christ, who Himself adopted their position in life. The hearers, one and all, were then directed to the Saviour as the only rock upon which they could build, the only friend who could bring them present peace and conduct them to future glory.

During the delivery of the sermon the conduct of the Neston band was very reprehensible. It seemed that the managers of the dub did not think the musical ability of the band to be of a sufficiently high character to warrant their being engaged, and accordingly they made arrangements with the band the 1st Cheshire militia. This gave umbrage to the Neston musicians, who, considering they had not been well treated, assembled outside the church, and whilst the preacher was showing forcible terms that” it is not good for man to be alone ” poured forth music of a most discordant character, much to the annoyance of the congregation; and it was not until the Mr. Coxon went out of church and remonstrated with then that they left, and proceeded to another part of Neston.

After the service the ladies returned in procession to the National Schoolroom, where tea and other refreshments were provided for them, the caterer being Mrs Minshull of the Golden Lion Hotel. The room was prettily decorated, the motto “Union is strength” being conspicuously placed on one side of the building. After tea. Mr. Callister, the secretary, read the statement of accounts, from which it appeared that the following payments had been made during the year:—For confinements, £5 10s.; to sick members £22, to superannuated members, £27 12s.; funerals, £12 2s. The total receipts for the year amounted to £164 19s. 7d., and the payments to £103 2s. 8d, leaving a balance of £51 16s 11d. The funds of the club now amount to £583 1s. 11d, of which £550 is invested in the bonds of the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks, and £131 2s 8d in the Neston Savings Bank.

In the evening the ladies and their friends adjourned to the large green at the back the Golden Lion Hotel. Here, according to the annual custom, old and young engaged in dancing, non-members being charged a shilling each for admission, the amount raised in this manner, being given to the funds of the club. The lady patroness was present, as well as the Rev. Mr. Coxon, the Rev. Mr. Gleadowe, and other influential gentlemen of the neighbourhood. No drink was allowed to be brought on the ground, and the greatest decorum was observed. The company on the green numbered about 700, and dancing was kept up till ten o’clock, when the ground was cleared, and the ladies and their male friends retired, highly gratified with the way in which the jubilee of the Neston Female Friendly Society had been celebrated.