45 Parkgate Heritage Trail 1st April 2016

There’s been a heritage trail round the town centre for some years now, so it was good to be able to inaugurate the Parkgate trail.

Thanks to an allocation from the member’s local budget of the late Cllr Brenda Dowding, a set of seven brass plaques have been attached to historic sites along the Parade.  The unveiling of the plaque outside St Thomas’s in Mostyn Square was symbolic of unveiling the complete collection.

Thirty or so residents braved the cold wind to hear Alan Passmore, secretary of the Parkgate Society, introduce the ceremony.  He explained that the original idea was to commemorate the most worthy of Parkgate’s sons and daughters Sir Wilfred Grenfell (“Grenfell of Labrador”), born in Mostyn House in 1865.  Thwarted when the Society wanted a road named after him, they hit instead upon the idea of the brass plaques, including one at Mostyn House.

 

Parkgate plaques

Picture by Roy Wison

The Vicar having been unable to attend at short notice, Deputy Warden Lesley Irvin assisted with the unveiling after which all repaired out of the cold to the relative warmth of the church and a welcome tea or coffee.

An audio commentary of the trail is available for downloading on this community website at https://www.neston.org.uk/about-the-area/things-to-see-and-do/local-audio-trails/   The plaques are at Mostyn House, Dover Cottage, Sawyer’s Cottage, The Old Watch House, Balcony House & Assembly Room, St Thomas’ Church, and Seven Steps, Teal Cottage and the Old Butcher’s Shop.

 

44 Arts & Crafts & Food Producers’ Markets  5th March 2016

 

Since it took over management of the Market, Market Square and Town Hall two years ago, the Town Council has been introducing new ideas for markets to complement the regular Friday event.

So it was good to be able to combine a visit to the Fairtrade Breakfast with some shopping for things I can’t always get on a Friday.  The Market Square provided some really exotic offerings in the now regular Food producer’s market.  I picked up my usual Britman Beer brewed in Burton and some artisan bread amongst others.  Musical entertainment was this month provided by Neston Strummers.  Although they invited me to take part, I failed to make the grade!

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Indoors the quality of the arts and crafts for sale was truly exceptional: paintings, modelling, woodcarving, jewellery, knitwear, photography – I know I shouldn’t try listing things because I know I’ve left some out.  Best come along and see for yourself next time.  But I did pick up a pair of wooden cufflinks and a Liverpool FC Subbuteo set in a frame, and Sue chose a unique necklace.

Thanks to Town Centre Manager Katy Pierce for developing these market innovations.

43 Fairtrade Breakfast 5th March 2016

Cheshire West & Chester became a Fairtrade Borough five years ago, and it’s good to see Neston now well on its way to becoming a Fairtrade Town in its own right.

Free Fairtrade tea and coffee was available together with a selection of other Fairtrade eatables at this awareness raising event.  The café area was busy all morning, and it was good to see local MP Justin Madders dropping in between parental duties on his way from taking his children to football.

Thanks to the local Fairtrade Committee: Margaret Heibel, Cllr Janet Griffiths, Louise Irvine, Cllr Louise Gittins, Cheryl Ellis and Zeta Emmett.

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42 Lord Mayor of Chester’s Banquet  4th March 2016

A truly glittering occasion, this, with much of the City of Chester’s (now presumably Cheshire West & Chester’s) collection of silver.  It included 17th Century flagons and tankards (we didn’t drink from them), 18th Century punch bowls and sauce boats, 19th Century candelabra, and a large tea urn.Clipboard_20160310

The candelabra were in use as intended.  One carefully framed the face of my wife Sue opposite me.  Spectacular as it was it did have its downside.  Twice candle wax running down the side dripped into my glass of wine.  The first time was OK because I got it replaced with a fuller glass.  The second time I had to fish the wax bits out with a spoon and decant the contents into my neighbour’s unused glass.  So I had three glasses of wine – but only one measure!

Guests were greeted by the Lord Mayor Cllr Hugo Deynem and Lady Mayoress, the reception room guarded by two costumed attendants, one with the civic mace, the other more threatening with a large sword.

For the five-course meal we were seated between the town mayors of Winsford and Northwich, allegedly to keep the civic heads of the two rival towns of Vale Royal apart.  Guest speaker was Granada News anchor Lucy Meacock, who began her career as a reporter on the Chester Chronicle.

 

41 Sheriff of Chester’s Breakfast  24 February 2016

We don’t usually have a midweek breakfast starting at 11:00 in our house.  Nor do we normally sit down with over a hundred others.  But on this occasion we did.  It was the Sheriff of Chester’s breakfast at the Mollington Banastre Hotel, a charitable “do” with proceeds going to the Bren Project which offers people with leaning difficulties and autism the opportunity to experience supportive work placements in Cheshire.

For our “full English” we shared an Anglo-Welsh table with the Town Mayors of Northwich and Conwy and the Chairman of Flintshire County Council and their consorts.  (I’m not sure that Sue was struck on her place setting name –“Consort of Neston”!).  Interesting to see former mayors of former local authorities there, including former Mayor of Ellesmere Port & Neston Council, (and first Chair of our Town Council) Moira Andrews.

The guest speaker – one of the best and most fluent I’ve heard – was Alex Clifton, Artistic Director of Chester Performs.  He gave a fascinating account of what he hopes to achieve with the new Arts Centre currently taking shape on, and incorporating, the old Odeon Cinema on Northgate Street.  Building work is scheduled for completion by the end of the year, and the centre will include exhibition rooms, studio space, transferred library, cinema and theatre performance space with a moveable thrust stage.  Sounds exciting, and fills a gaping hole in the borough’s artistic provision.

40 90th Birthday 10th February 2016

I was able to drop in on one of Neston’s long-term residents to wish him a happy 90th birthday (on Valentine’s Day).  Denis O’Brien, a stalwart of the Workers’ Education Association in Neston for many years was indulging his passion for learning at a WEA literature class at the Neston Community & Youth Centre when much to his surprise (but with the prior agreement of the tutor) I interrupted to wish him well.  Other members of the class, including his wife, June, had prepared a small cake celebration for their break time.

Denis was a member of the old Neston Urban District Council until it was abolished in 1974 for Neston to become part of the new Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council (which itself disappeared in 2009).

He still walks everywhere in Neston, a familiar sight in his trilby with a knapsack on his back and a stick in his hand.  Good to know you, Denis.

Denis O'Brien

39 Wesley Plaque Unveiled  29 January 2016

John Wesley preached in Neston at a chapel off Parkgate Road on his way to Ireland in 1762.  A brass plaque commemorating the event was stolen 30 years ago and replaced by Neston Civic Society.  The site is now part of the new McBryde Homes development, and the developers have kindly installed a new plaque designed by Steve Quicke of Neston Civic Society, paid from a bequest from Ruby Holloway.

After a brief introduction by Edward Hilditch, Chairman of the Burton & Neston History Society and a prayer from local Methodist Minister Revd Marcus Torchon, he and I unveiled the new plaque.

Photo courtesy Mrs E Ward

wesley plaque

38 Vivo Coffee Morning, Town Hall  25 January 2016

Vivo Care Choices run activities for local adults with learning disabilities each weekday at Neston Town Hall.  Today’s coffee morning was the first the group, aided by their volunteer carers, have held.  As well as enjoying coffee and some excellent homemade cake, we were able to chat to members of the group, volunteers and staff.

We learned of the different activities they regularly take part in, both inside the Town Hall and outside.  For example, weekly visits to Northgate Arena in Chester for swimming also involve independent travel by bus.  Vivo has also secured part-time work for many members, for example in local stores and the weekly market.

Neston should be proud of the work of the volunteer carers.  I was impressed.

Vivo group cropped

37 Emma Lady Hamilton Memorial Re-unveiled 16 January 2016

Although the anvil memorial outside Mealor’s Courtyard on Burton Road had been officially unveiled in April last year, we have had to wait some time before planning permission allowed it to be reinstalled.

It was a pleasure with Winston Lees of the 1805 Society to unveil this, the only memorial to Emma Hamilton in the country.  Born in Ness as Emy Lyon in 1765, her father was employed as a blacksmith servicing the Denhall colliery.  Although after her father’s death a matter of weeks after Emy’s birth, she and her mother moved to Hawarden, her maternal grandparents’ home, the memorial celebrates her association with Ness.

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After the unveiling with Winston Lees from the 1805 Society

Picture by courtesy of Rob Clive

36 Showmen’s Guild Annual Luncheon 8 January 2016

Bling to the right of us, bling to the left of us; into the Pennine Suite strolled 40 mayors, as many consorts and former mayors and many other guests beside.

This was the annual luncheon of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain (Lancs, Cheshire & N Wales section), an event staged to say “thank you” to the many local authorities, including Neston Town Council, that members do business with in bringing their fairs to them during the course of the season.  It is the largest annual gathering of civic dignitaries from across the North West of England.

Arriving at the splendidly-named Mercure Last Drop Village Hotel at Bromley Cross outside Bolton after following the gleaming Bentley chauffeuring the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Chester and two CWaC Council guests, we told civic guests would be dining in the Pennine Suite, chauffeurs in the Courtyard Bar.  Our greeter seemed a little perplexed when I said I was both.

Sue and I were welcomed by the section president and national president of the Guild resplendent in their own magnificent chains of office, chains which put to shame many of those being worn by borough mayors.  The National President, David Wallis, knows Neston well, being here for our annual fair in connection with Ladies Day. In fact he took part in the 200th Anniversary Walk in 2014.

Following a welcoming drink and socialising with other local mayors including those from Chester, Cheshire East and Wirral we were shepherded into the dining room for our three course lunch, wine included, toasts and speeches.

A truly memorable and pleasant event.  It’s a tough life being Mayor, but somebody’s got to do it.