The society was founded in 1814 when the ladies of Neston formed a co-operative named Neston Female Friendly Society.
It was formed when the country was suffering a period of severe hardship because of the long wars with France together with a series of poor harvests. The Neston ladies set up a mutual society (as did the women in several other towns in Cheshire) and its funds were invested to provide them with some financial support in sickness, childbirth and death. One of Neston’s doctors was paid a salary from the funds, to attend to the members as necessary.
The original charter is kept in Neston Parish Church (with a copy on display) although in 2003 the society had to drop the word ‘friendly’ from the title, due to the increasing costs charged by the Financial Services Authority which was costing the society up to £2,000 per year.
The society’s motto is ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens’. The motto says it all. Help one another. The society is open to all females from the age of fifteen, and all members pay a modest annual fee of £4 each.
The society operates a modest scheme to members which consists of:
Members’ sickness benefit
Members’ maternity benefit who have children in wedlock
Members’ death grant
These benefits are given at the discretion of the committee. The committee consists of six female members, and the secretary traditionally must be male. The society also has three trustees. In 2017 the Secretary is Andy Williams.
The focal point of the society is its traditional ‘Ladies Day Walk‘ which takes place on the first Thursday in June and has done annually apart from the war years.
It culminates with a procession of the members, clergy, mayor/ mayoress and invited dignitaries. In 2017 (June 1st) it departed from the Malt Shovel, and down the High Street for a service at Neston Parish Church.
After the service, the procession makes its way via Church Lane and Parkgate Road, to gather round Neston Cross for a short service and blessing from clergy. It then makes its way down High Street, Bridge St and Chester Road to Neston Civic Hall for tea and the Annual General Meeting. A truly colourful day is enjoyed by everyone.
The society has gone from strength to strength and attracts around 200 children walking with the society members to celebrate the annual Neston Ladies Day. Long may it continue!