Neston Female Friendly Society – Secretaries
The Neston Female Friendly Society rules of 1817 required the appointment of a male secretary –
14 That a Secretary, resident in Neston, shall be chosen by a Majority of members to continue during pleasure, who shall be paid the sum of two guineas a year out of stock.
These early rules give no indication of what duties were required of the Secretary. The appointment of a male, rather than female, secretary is now a tradition of the Society although it is no longer the necessity that it was in 1814, indeed the Societies rules of 1911, when the Secretary was Dick Wharam, had the same requirement.
20 The Secretary shall be of the male sex, resident at Neston, and shall continue in office during the pleasure of the Society…
By this time the financial management of the Society was more strictly defined, as were the roles and responsibilities of its officers, as required by a series of legislative changes culminating in the Friendly Societies Act of 1896.
The Secretary was responsible to the Committee of Management which consisted of the Lady Patroness, the Treasurer and the Stewardesses who also determined the salary he was to be paid.
20 …The Secretary shall, on all occasion, in the execution of his office, act under the superintendence, control, and directions of the Committee of Management…
Rule 20 of the 1911 rules also described the Secretaries duties in some detail.
20 …He shall attend all meetings of the Society, and of the Committee of Management; he shall record correctly the names of the Officers, Members of the Committee of Management, Trustees and other members present, and the minutes of the proceedings, which he shall into a book to be authenticated by the signature of the Chairman as the proceedings of the meeting; he shall receive proposals for admission to the Society, and demands for benefits and allowances of every description granted by the rules; he shall, at the close of every meeting, or in case of receipts at other times, forthwith hand over all money received by him to the Treasurer. He shall also pay over all moneys, and give up all books, documents, and property belonging to the Society, when ordered to do so by a resolution thereof, or of the Committee, or by the Trustees. He shall summon all meetings of the Society and of the Committee of Management, and keep the accounts, documents and papers of the Society in such manner and for such purposes as the Committee may appoint, and shall prepare all returns and other documents required by the Act, or Treasury Regulations, and duly forward them to the Registrar…
Who Were They?
Considering the age of the Society the number of men to hold the post of Secretary is surprisingly small, many of them serving the Society for a considerable period of time. We know the names of most, but not all of them.
1814 – circa 1827
We do not who was the first Secretary of the Society. The first one we can identify with any certainty is James Woodward.
circa 1827 – 1862
James Woodward was certainly the secretary of the Society from around 1827 until his resignation in 1862 when he had been secretary for 35 years.
Cheshire Observer – Saturday 14 June 1862
The Chairman rose and said, the ordinary business of the meeting being over, it became his duty to introduce the extraordinary business, which was, in the absence of the Vicar, to present the Secretary, Mr. James Wood-ward, with the beautiful writing desk, together with a purse of gold, now before them. Mr. Woodward had stated that he had been conneeted with the Society for the last 35 years, and he ,the Chairman, had no doubt of the fact, for that day thirty years ago he became first connected with the Society, and had known Mr. Wood-ward ever since, and could bear testimony to his persevering efforts on behalf of the Society. He had there-fore very much pleasure in presenting Mr. Woodward with the testimonial for his long and faithful services to the Club. The desk and purse were then handed to Mr. Woodward, amid loud plaudits. The desk bore the following inscription: — “Presented to Mr. James Woodward, with a purse of gold, by the Neston Female Friendly Society, in acknowledgment of valuable services as their Secretary during the late 35 years. Neston, Juue 5th, 1862.”
Mr. Woodward rose and said — Ladies and gentlemen, I feel so overpowered with the sense of your kindness, that I cannot find words to express my thanks for the very handsome testimonial which you have presented to me (cheers ) I prize your gift, not so much for its intrinsic value, as for the proof it affords me (if indeed I have wanted any) of your approval, as well as its being a token of your esteem, respect and regard. The humble services which I have rendered have been requited by you from year to year, so that your kindness this day has come upon me unlooked for and unexpectedly. I have, I trust, faithfully served you. and have endeavored to perform the duties of Secretary to your Society as in every way to further its interests and welfare ; and I reaped a sufficient reward in watching its growth and witnessing its present prosperity and success. Ladies and gentlemen, I beg again to tender you my warmest gratitude for your very great kindness (applause)
He was born in Little Neston around 1794 and in 1818 he married Jane Downward, one of the founder members of the Society, on 11th August. Both were teachers at the Neston school. They had two sons; James, born 1819, who died in infancy and Henry born 1821. He owned property and houses in Liverpool Road and he and his family lived in Meadow Cottage in Liverpool Road. He was also actuary of Neston Savings Bank from 1824. His career came to a sad end when it was discovered, in January 1864 that he had been embezzling money from the Neston Bank for almost twenty years. He confessed and was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Jane, his wife died in 1865, aged 85, and was buried at Neston on 10th October.
After his release from prison James died on 6th January 1870 at the age of 77 and was buried at Neston. Their son, Henry was for some time a curate in Wigan and in the 1860’s was vicar of St Stephen’s, Lambeth in Surrey. Shortly after his father’s death he too died on 11th November 1870.
1863 – circa 1880
The identity of the Secretary between James Woodward’s retirement in 1862 and Edwin Kerns appearance in 1881 is unclear. An 1864 account of Ladies Club day in the Cheshire Observer a Mr Callister as the Secretary. There is no evidence in the Census returns of any family of that name living in Neston. There was a however a family of Callister’s living in nearby Tranmere during this period. The father Edward Callister was river pilot and his oldest son, also Edward, was a clerk in the wool trade. The rules of the Society did, however require that the Secretary should be resident in Neston.
1881 – 1908
Edwin (Edward) Kerns
Edwin Kerns was born in 1855 in Frodsham. His father, James Kerns, was police sergeant in Neston in the 1860’s when the family were living in Liverpool Road, having previously worked at Bunbury, Frodsham and Tarporely. He retired in 1871 and was afterwards employed as Sanitary Inspector for the Wirral Guardians and Neston Local Board.
In 1871 Edwin was apprenticed to a pawnbroker in Great Howard Street Liverpool though his parents and two brothers were still living in Park Street, Neston. He married Mary Jane Taylor at St Nicholas Church, Liverpool in 1877. Their first daughter, Mary Jane was born soon after followed by Nellie Getrude in 1880. Edwin was then employed as an insurance agent. It appears that he and his family returned to Neston soon after and in 1881 he and his wife were living in Neston at the School House, Liverpool Road. Edwin was then parish clerk and was certainly at this time Secretary to the Society. His father, James, was still living in Neston in the High Street and working as agent for the Prudential Insurance Company. Boarding with Edwin and his family was William Hough, schoolmaster. Their first daughter, Mary Jane died in 1883.
By 1891 they were living in Parkgate Road. Nellie now had six brothers and sisters and Edwin’s mother in law, Mary Taylor, was also living with them. Edward’s occupation was given as insurance agent and journalist. In 1899 he was appointed Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths and Vaccination Officer for Neston, after having been assistant to the Registrar for over eight years. He was a reporter for both the Cheshire Observer and the Chester Courant and many of the articles about Neston news appearing in those papers would have been written by him. He contributed a regular column under the pseudonyms first of Old Fogie and later Quill Pen which consisted of often humorous accounts of Neston gossip, local history and observations of nature and wildlife.
In 1901 Edwin and his wife were living on the High Street. Meanwhile their eleven children were still living in Parkgate Road, all but the three youngest now working. Soon afterwards he suffered several bereavements: his daughter Dorothy (Dollie) died in 1903 at the age of 17, his son Edward in 1904, aged 12 and his oldest son Harry died in 1906.
Edwin died of a stroke in 1908. A lengthy obituary appeared in the Cheshire Observer, 28th November, 1908 and paid to tribute to his kindness and good nature as well as his literary talent.
‘ For many years there was no better known or more respected man in Neston. Of a large-hearted disposition, he was the guide, counsellor and friend of all who were in distress. He was often the first person to be approached by the poor in their troubles, and to all he gave a helping hand, even at great personal personal inconvenience and with the expenditure- of much valuable time and money. Indeed he was blamed sometimes for the way he allowed his good nature to be imposed upon; but he never could find it in his heart to refuse to listen to even an undeserving supplicant’.
Dick Wharam was born in Hyde in Cheshire in 1859. He married Mary Dudley in Altrincham, Cheshire in 1886. He served as a police officer in Northwich and New Ferry before moving to Neston in 1902. He was appointed Secretary to the Society in 1908, following the death of Edwin Kerns.
In 1911 he and his wife and three children were living at Holmfield, Neston. He was then a police pensioner and worked as a rate collector for Neston Urban District Council. He died in March 1937.
1936 – 1938
George Metcalfe was born in Neston on 19th May 1891, the son of Thomas Metcalfe and his wife Sarah (nee Williams). In 1911, aged 19, he was living with his father, mother and brothers Thomas and Charles in Bridge Street. His father was then working as a chimney sweep while George was employed as a chauffeur.
In 1913 he married Florence Olive Rostance, daughter of draper, James Rostance. The Rostance family were originally from Staffordshire but moved to Neston in the early 1900s where they had a shop on the High Street. George and Florence had two daughters, Helen born in 1915 and Joyce born in 1920. He owned The Reliance Garage in High Street during the 1920s, at one time in partnership with Joseph William Webster though this partnership was dissolved in 1926.
He may have been appointed Secretary to the Society when Dick Wharam died in 1937 or at some point before that but he resigned the position in 1938 as he and his family were leaving the area. They moved to Checkley Green in Nantwich where he continued to work as a motor mechanic.
1938 – 1968
Albert Tilley was born in Neston in 1898 the son of coalminer, John Tilley and his wife, Mary. When he was a child he lived in Eldon Terrace in Neston. He married Mary Ann Lloyd of St Julian, Shropshire in 1922. After his marriage he lived in Olive Drive, Neston. He died in 1968.
Ewart Warburton was appointed Secretary following the death of Albert Tilley in 1968. He was born in Broughton, Lancashire in 1907. He married Elsie Jones in 1928 and lived in Newtown, Little Neston. He was a member of the Loyal Habah (Neston) Lodge of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and was appointed Grand Master in 1959 after serving as Treasurer and Deputy Grand Master. He was the first member of the Neston Lodge to achieve this distinction since it began in 1844. His wife was a member of the Society and before his appointment he had acted as dispensation staff bearer to Mr Tilley as well as accompanying his wife in the procession on Ladies Club Day. He died in 1979.
1977 – 1991
Norman was born in Liverpool in 1923 and was Neston Councillor and mayor for Ellesmere Port and Neston. He died in 2010.
1991 – 2014
2014 – 2016
2016 – 2020
Andy Williams was born in Heswall in 1966, son of Alun and Heather Williams, the eldest of five children. He was brought up in Neston (also briefly in Scotland), leaving school at the age of 16 to join Liverpool University’s Leahurst laboratories as a trainee in the Avian medicine department. Since 1988 he has worked at Unilever Research as an industrial chemist, where an interest in the union led to him becoming a shop steward and branch secretary, then joining the Labour party in the 1990’s. After earlier serving as a councillor on Ellesmere Port & Neston Council and Neston Town Council, he represented Neston on the Cheshire West and Chester Council from 2011. He died suddenly on 25th April 2020.