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Neston's Greatest SOB Story

Published: 1st April 2014 06:20

As a project gets underway to tell Neston's greatest story - 200 years of Neston Female Society and the Ladies Day Walk - a significant problem has emerged that threatens to stifle celebrations. 

In what should be an epic year of civic celebration, hitherto-suppressed legislation threatens to make 2014 Neston's very own ‘Annus Horriblis'.

During the course of due diligence to enable the recent asset transfer of the Town Hall and Market to the stewardship of  Neston Town Council, research has uncovered legislation dating back to 1728 which threatens dire consequences for local residents, as it appears to ban the sale or consumption of alcohol in the town.

Regulars at local pubs have launched the S.O.B. (Save Our Beer) campaign. An initial meeting of campaigners took place at the Brown Horse at the weekend, to formulate a strategy for heading off the potential fall-out that will inevitably ensue if officials persist in enforcing the law.  A petition has been launched, with over 800 signatures collected already.

Neston's greatest SOB storyCampaigners include former Mayor David Clark; Hon Secretary of the Female Society Rob Halsall and Brown Horse landlady Terri Binns. A petition is already attracting hundreds of signatures.

During 1728, Great Neston, as the town was then known, established its Market Charter after lengthy negotiations with the Foris estate, the land-owning family at the time. As a condition of granting the Market Charter, life-long exponent of temperance and campaigner against the vices of alcohol, Lady Opal Foris, insisted on the inclusion of the condition that ‘the sale, storage or consumption of alcohol within a one mile radius of the centre of Great Neston be banned under penalty of imprisonment'.

Neston's greatest SOB storyThe document recently unearthed.

Details of the original charter uncovered during due diligence have verified that the condition was written into statute - repealing the supplementary Beer Bill of 1684 - and to this day remains law within Neston.

Further investigations have been taking place to establish why the law has never been enforced - investigations which have pieced together a web of intrigue.

Town Government during the 1700s was effectively a corporation of privileged aldermen, each one a member of the Lodge of Freemasons ensconced at The Swan Public House in High Street.  The theory is that fraternal interest contrived to suppress the legislation, with chair of the local aldermen, Roland de Robinson being the brother of The Swan's Landlord (Richard) and Chief Market Trader (Robert). Of further intrigue is the mysterious and sudden demise of Lady Foris, fortuitously avoiding query as to the continuing sale of alcohol within the town.

Neston's greatest SOB storyAdvocate for temperance - Lady Opal Foris

Although an interesting story, the consequences for Neston residents are dire. The law remains in effect, requiring that all pubs and retail outlets within a one mile radius of The Cross must cease the sale of alcohol immediately - though they have been given until the end of April to comply. Legal representatives are investigating if this must also apply to the storage or consumption of alcohol on any premises within the designated area.

David Clark, a former Mayor of Neston, explains: "The Town Council is powerless to intervene - it can issue a formal letter to the regional authority to represent public feeling - but this could take months of legal wrangling to resolve, with no guarantee of the desired outcome."

Local Publican Terri Binns (landlady of the Brown Horse) is outraged: "It's bureaucracy gone mad", she says. "It's crazy to try and enforce this law after so long. No other town in the country has such loony legislation and I'm not surprised if Lady whatsherface got what was coming to her."

Of immediate concern is the impact on the planned 200th Anniversary Celebrations of Ladies Day.  Honorary Secretary of Neston Female Society, Rob Halsall, is incensed: "It's madness. Two hundred years of tradition and this year of all years we can't have a drink to celebrate? The world's gone mad. They can drag me off afterwards if they want but I'm having my pint."

Copies of the S.O.B. campaign petition can be signed at any of the town's public houses and licensed retail outlets. Campaigners are also encouraging residents and businesses affected by the ban to attend the annual town meeting in May where the matter will no doubt be robustly debated.

Editor's Note: Yes, it was this year's April Fool's article. Thanks to all who took it in good part.  See more AMA April Fool's Day articles here.

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At 08:35 on 1st April 2014, Baz commented:
Its an outrage! Next thing you know they'll be tarmacking country lanes!
andy w
At 09:14 on 1st April 2014, andy w commented:
I would just like everyone to know that as the councillor for Neston i will fight this draconian legislation to my last breath.this Lady Opal Foris is having a laugh if she thinks our ladies club day is going to be tea total
At 09:21 on 1st April 2014, Dan commented:
I heard this was happening from an owner of a local take away. People don't realise the knock-on effect this will have on other businesses.

He told me he expects kebab sales to fall as much as 99% on a Friday and Saturday night !
At 09:34 on 1st April 2014, Max commented:
Don't panic guys, like all legacy laws there is always a loophole and I think I have found it. Its not the consumption of alcohol that is banned by this law, its the SALE of alcohol that is forbidden.

Therefore on Ladies Club Day if the pubs simply give the beer away then the police are powerless to act. We should immediately petition the local pubs for free beer on Ladies day in the interest of community spirit.

Its worth a try !!!
At 11:01 on 1st April 2014, Bernard commented:
This could become like the Prohibition, expect bootleg liquor and speakeasies, we will have mobsters riding around in blacked out Robin Reliants, Cheshire Police will have to set up a special Untouchable team of tee-total coppers headed by PC Elliot from Ness. On Ladies Day there will be special hollowed out staffs with a little tap at the bottom to hide contraband booze, also the old smugglers tunnels that run from the Parish Church to The Old Quay will be reopened...the mind boggles.....
At 11:06 on 1st April 2014, Bernard commented:
obvious I meant tee-total as more time will be spent playing golf ;)
At 11:42 on 1st April 2014, Dan commented:
Shockingly I believe the local police are actually supporting this ban and will enforce the law from this month. Apparently after the last stag-do that hit Neston a few weeks ago, they lost three traffic cones and the local PCSO was mistaken as "the entertainment" !

On top of that, Cheshire fire brigade had to foot the bill to remove the groom-to-be from a local lamp post which required expert cutting material and resulted in the loss of several pairs of expensive handcuffs !

Parkgate pubs have apparently seized on the opportunity already, and are already marketing themselves as the "stag-do" capital of the Wirral.
At 13:53 on 1st April 2014, Kathy commented:
I reckon this is an April Fool Joke people!!!!
At 16:42 on 1st April 2014, Bernard commented:
Oh No!!!! an April Fools Joke.....well I never guessed, such a believable story ;)
Carrie Spacey
At 16:47 on 1st April 2014, Carrie Spacey responded:
Thank you to those of you who played along. All good fun!

If you'd like to see any of our previous spoof articles, click on the down arrow next to Best of Neston and CH64 in the grey tabs list top left and select 'AboutMyArea April Fool's Day Articles'.
At 16:55 on 1st April 2014, Dan commented:
It was just a joke ? and I had just convinced the wife to allow me to do a sit-in protest at the Brown for the next few weekends ;-)
At 17:40 on 1st April 2014, Bernard commented:
I also had in mind who may be the present day Lady Opal Foris

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