Neston Female Friendly Society - Founder Members
|Published: 10th May 2014 10:32|
Local historian Ian Norris shares with AboutMyArea Neston his research into the earliest members of the Neston Female Friendly Society.
Photos in this article are amongst a number of early images collected, but of course no photographs exist from the time of the founding of the Society.
Here is Ian's research.
Following the interest shown in the founder members of the Neston Female (Friendly) Society, and Clive Edwards' research into his own connection to a founder member (Sarah Pennington), I thought it would be interesting to see what could be found of the other ladies listed as members on the Rules and Orders of the Society for 1818.
Whilst I have no ancestral connection with any of these ladies, the names Arabella Monk and Esther Monk struck a chord as I knew that ‘Monk' was a name associated with the Customs service in Parkgate at around that date. So, this is a little of Arabella and Esther Monk's story.
Arabella (recorded also as Arrabilla and Annabella) Monk was the daughter of William & Esther Monk of Parkgate and she was baptised at Neston parish church on Wednesday 9 January 1788, the same day that Connecticut ratified the United States Constitution to become the fifth state and just a week after The Times newspaper was first published in London. Arabella's father, William, was a Customs Officer at Parkgate and, having married Esther Williams at Neston on 19 September 1779, Arabella was the 6th of their 10 children.
Arabella's mother, baptised as Hesther, was a daughter of John Matthews, a local mariner and possibly a ship's captain, and Arabella was named after her mother's older sister. Esther Monk would have been about 55 when the Female Friendly Society was founded and it is probably her, rather than her daughter (also Esther, baptised March 1799) who was a founder member. Both William Monk, Arabella's father, and his brother, Benjamin, were Customs Officers at Parkgate at the time when the port was in a state of some decline; William, aged 69, retired on pension in 1823 and when he died in September 1831 the port facilities had largely ceased and the Customs service had been withdrawn from the village. However, before then, two of Arabella's older brothers, Charles and Joseph, had entered the local maritime services and prospered from their occupations - some details of their lives can be read in ‘The Rise and Fall of Parkgate' by the late Geoffrey Place (copies are in Neston Library).
Esther Monk died, aged 70, and was buried at Neston on 4 February 1829, just 2½ years before her husband. Arabella was, therefore, well-connected locally when she became a founder member of the Neston Female Friendly Society but her position in society was to rise further on her marriage to surgeon John Wharton Bankes in December 1825.
Bankes (baptised 11 February 1798 at Neston) was the son of local surgeon (ie doctor) James and ‘Paddy' Bankes and he was some 10 years younger than Arabella. Between May 1831 and April 1837 the marriage produced one son and two daughters with all three being baptised on the same day, 21 April 1837, at Neston. Tragically, two of the children died as teenagers within five months of each other between November 1844 and April 1845 so that only one child, Nessie Monk Bankes (born 23 April 1827), survived into full adulthood. John Wharton Bankes also died young, aged 50, and was buried at Neston on 18 December 1847 - within a 3 year period Arabella had buried two of her children and her husband.
Nessie, Arabella's surviving child married well, becoming the wife of James Braid, BA, Doctor of Medicine, at Neston parish church on 6 July 1848, just 6 months after the death of her father. James, born in Scotland, was the son of a nationally-recognised surgeon (also named James and the originator of the modern understanding of hypnotism, and the creator of the words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism") and he had obtained his medical qualification at prestigious Edinburgh University. Had James Braid jnr come to Neston to work alongside Nessie's father, John Wharton Bankes? At the time of the June 1841 census Bankes had an assistant surgeon, 25-year old Harrison Packard (who died in Neston in 1852), and it is possible that Packard had replaced Braid after his marriage to Nessie. It is not unreasonable to suggest that James Braid, only 26 when he married Nessie, had come to Neston as an apprentice surgeon but, once married, established himself in his own practice in the town. It is worth noting that James' father, the originator of hypnotism, had by 1828 moved from Scotland to Manchester where he established ‘a successful [practice] due to professional competence and personable manner, and he was also noted for his compassion towards those patients too poor to afford a fee' [MS8756 ‘The library at Wellcome Collection']. After he died in Manchester in March 1860 James Braid snr, aged 64, was buried in Neston.
But what of Nessie, Arabella's only surviving daughter, and her surgeon husband James Braid jnr? Again, the story has a tragic turn as, although the marriage produced three sons, two died in infancy and Nessie also died, aged 27. She was buried, on the same day as her son John Wharton Bankes Braid, at Neston on 12 May 1854. Following the death of her husband in December 1847 Arabella had moved from her home in Pyke's Yard (presumably a courtyard accessed from High Street via Pyke's Weint) to live with her daughter Nessie and son-in-law John Braid (and their two servants) at their home in Church Lane. What became of Arabella after the death of her daughter Nessie in 1854 and what continuing role - if any - did she have in the Neston Female Friendly Society? Someone may wish to do a little research and conclude her story. However, Arabella's Will survives; dated 12 April 1873 she bequeathed ‘..All my estate and property of every nature and kind to my grandson CHARLES BRAID' [ Charles, baptised 30 September 1850, was the only surviving child of daughter Nessie]. Subsequently, Arabella had a slight change of heart for, in a codicil to the Will dated 17 July 1875, she left ‘..to my sister in law SARAH BANKES the sum of twenty pounds free of legacy duty and all of my clothing and wearing apparel to my Niece HESSEY BROWN'.
Arabella died in Neston on 14 September 1875, aged 87. Her only grandchild and sole executor, Charles Braid, proved her Will at Chester two weeks later; following the family tradition he had followed in the footsteps of his father and both grandfathers and had qualified as a Bachelor of Medicine.
On a broader note I am intrigued by the suggestion postulated on some websites that the Neston Female Friendly Society was created by local ladies to help their members whilst ‘the menfolk were away fighting in the Napoleonic Wars'. Having never seen any evidence for this connection I would be interested to know how this idea arose - and does anyone have the names of Nestonians, if any, who were involved in the far-ranging Napoleonic conflicts? Indeed it is highly unlikely that there is any direct connection between the Society and the Napoleonic Wars; many other Female Friendly Societies were in existence around England long before the Napoleonic conflicts began and the formation of the Neston Society in 1814 occurred only a short time before the victory at Waterloo in June 1815 and the signing of the Second Treaty of Paris which officially ended the wars in November 1815. Of course, if anyone can definitively substantiate a connection.......
Ian Norris - Local Historian, Neston