William Murphy in Manchester, August 1868

The Anti-Catholic lectures given by William Murphy in the late 1860s often stirred up communal tensions and even rioting in the Midlands and the north of England. When he came to Manchester he was detained and prevented from speaking by the authorities.

In the last week of August 1868 William Murphy’s supporters placarded Manchester announcing that he would be giving a week of lectures in the Assembly Rooms, Cooke Street, Hulme, starting on Monday 31st August The chosen rooms could hold an audience of 500 and were near – possible deliberately so – to a Catholic chapel and two Catholic schools. Alarmed local magistrates hurriedly met and decided that the lectures should not be allowed to go ahead for fear of disorder. The following afternoon, as Murphy arrived at Victoria Station from Bolton, he was met by the Chief Constable Captain Palin and taken in a cab to the detective office, where it transpired that he carried a loaded revolver and a knuckle-duster. He was bailed to appear in court the next day.

Meanwhile, unaware that Murphy had been stopped, a large crowd gathered in Cooke Street and also in Rutland Street outside St Wilfrid’s. According to the Manchester Guardian ,“it was plain from the composition of the crowd that all the elements of disorder were present.” Eventually the police cleared Cooke Street and everything was quiet by 10pm.

In court William Murphy was charged with attempting to create a breach of the peace. He defended himself, asserting that “in free England I have as much right to speak as Mr Ernest Jones, or any other man”. A number of witnesses gave evidence of the potential for disorder if the lectures went ahead, including Captain Palin, William Kelly, a mantle manufacturer who lived near the Assembly Rooms, and William Waller, the headteacher of a Church of England school. One of Murphy’s fellow lecturers, a Mr Flannagan, gave evidence that he himself had addressed a crowd of 2,000 on Sunday afternoon in Chorlton Road, and an even larger crowd in the evening, without any trouble. At the end of the hearing the magistrates ordered that Murphy should enter sureties of several hundred pounds to keep the peace for three months and that he be kept in Belle Vue Gaol until the money was paid into the court. Thus Murphy was sent to the very jail where the Fenians Deasy and Kelly had briefly been imprisoned the previous autumn.

No doubt the town authorities congratulated themselves on having dealt so easily with Murphy but he was not finished yet. From his prison cell he announced that he intended to offer himself to the electors of Manchester in the forthcoming general election campaign and his supporters placarded his election address around the town. Murphy promised that if elected he would “devote the whole of his energies to the support and extension of our national religion” and declared that “my life has been endangered, and my liberty is now taken from me, because I will not yield to the brute force gathered together by the devices of Maynooth priests trained with English money to sow sedition broadcast in the land”

Further placards announced that a meeting of “Protestants and Orangemen” would take place on Saturday 5th September at Chorlton Road. By four o’clock over four thousand people had gathered to listen to the speeches. Several fights broke out in front of the platform and then a column of several dozen Irishmen pushed to the front of the crowd and flung a shower of stones at the chair (a Mr Latham) and the speakers. After being taken by surprise Murphy’s supporters rallied and drove the Irishmen up the road. The police arrived and made thirty arrests. Murphy himself arrived by cab at 5.30pm and made speech in which he said that his motto was “William, Prince of Orange”. The first bill he would introduce would be that the working classes must have more wages and after that his next bill would be that nunneries must be inspected. At the end of his speech Murphy was born away on the shoulders of his supporters.

There was more trouble the following afternoon when a group of Irishmen gathered in Stevenson Square and then proceeded by separate routes to the Chorlton Road pitch where they set about the Murphyites with cudgels. Once again the police were summoned and made further arrests. Thereafter nothing more was heard of Murphy’s election ambitions. The events of the week prove, however, that Murphy was more than just an itinerant trouble-maker, that he appealed to a section of the Protestant working-class in Manchester who were sufficiently well organised for his supporters to be able to placard the town overnight and quickly raise sizeable sums for his sureties.

Murphy returned to Manchester on 15th February 1869 for a meeting of Orangemen at the Free Trade Hall. The advertised speakers included Mr Johnston, MP for Belfast, and a number of other leading Orangemen but they did not appear. Murphy made an appearance on the platform wearing an Orange sash. The meeting was chaired by Booth Mason from Ashton-under-Lyne, Deputy Grandmaster of the Orange Association in England. Ashton has been the scene of a serious riot between Protestant/Orange and Catholic communities in May 1868.

In the course of his speech William Murphy attacked Gladstone for wishing to disestablish the Church of Ireland and break up the British Empire. At the end of the meeting an Orange air was played and old women waved umbrellas and handkerchiefs decorated with pictures of King Billy.

The following month in Tynemouth several hundred Irish attacked the hall where Murphy was due to speak, firing shots into the building before being beaten back by the police.

Murphy’s nemesis came in the spring of 1871 when he began a series of lectures in the Cumbria town of Whitehaven. On Sunday 20th April several hundred Irish miners from the nearby town of Cleator Moor arrived by train, entered the hall, found Murphy on his own and viciously beat him until the police arrived and rescued him. Some of his attackers were sent to jail for 12 months while Murphy eventually succumbed to his injuries in March 1872. There was disorder – including bricks being thrown – even at his funeral in Birmingham.

Article by Michael Herbert

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The Anti-Irish Riot in Ashton-under-Lyne, May 1868

In the 1860s a number of anti-Irish riots occurred in the Midlands and the North of England, provoked by William Murphy who gave virulently anti-Catholic lectures. The worst local riot took place in Ashton-under-Lyne in May 1868.

According to his own account William Murphy was born a Catholic in Limerick in 1834 but his family converted to Protestantism whilst he was still a child and his father, after being sacked from his teaching post, assumed a new post as head of a Protestant school in Mayo. By the 1860s Murphy was touring England lecturing for the Protestant Evangelical Mission & Electoral Union, using a platform style which combined violent rhetoric with lurid “revelations” of the alleged sexual exploitation of female Catholics by their priests. He would begin by declaring “My name is Murphy and a red hot one it is. I am for war with the knife, war with revolver if you like, war with the bayonet if you like” and then declare to his audience that “your wives and daughters are exposed to debauchery in the confessional, and are betrayed and kidnapped into convent prisons, and there kept the dupes or slaves of priestly lust.”

A flier advertising one of Murphy’s meetings in Lancashire read: “Protestants! Come and Hear the Questions Put to the Married and the Unmarried in the Confessional”. The main feature of Murphy’s show was a simulation of a confessional in which Murphy and an assistant played the roles of priest and confessor. Those whose taste for sexual saliciousness had not been completely sated by the evening’s events could afterwards purchase pamphlets entitled Maria Monk and The Confessional Unmasked, describing in graphic detail the variety of sexual practices that Catholic theologians had defined as mortal sins.

Many Catholics were deeply offended by Murphy’s attack on their religion and his lecture tours frequently caused uproar. Some local authorities refused to let him halls while others allowed him to speak, relying on the police to keep the peace. In February 1867 he caused considerable disorder in Wolverhampton and magistrates were forced to summon troops and cavalry from neighbouring towns. In June, Murphy began a week of meetings in Birmingham, using a specially built wooden “tabernacle” after the mayor had refused him use of the Town Hall. On the first afternoon Murphy offered to take on “any Popish priest, from Bishop Ullathorne to the biggest ragamuffin in the lot; and if there was ever a rag and bone gatherer in the universe it was the Pope himself”. The local Irish then began attacking the hall and the police were summoned to clear the area. The following day a huge crowd gathered and there was more rioting during which the mayor read the Riot Act and had to call out the troops. After the third lecture Murphy’s supporters attacked the Irish area and ransacked a local chapel. Troops eventually restored order and the rest of the week passed off largely without incident.

The following year Murphy headed north to the textile districts where his meetings were accompanied by riots and attacks on the Irish at Ashton, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Stalybridge and other towns. The worst riot was in Ashton in early May 1868 where the Orange Order had strong support (even today there is a pub near the station called The Prince of Orange). Murphy himself was not present but on Saturday 9th May the Protestant Electoral Union sponsored a tea-party for a thousand people in the Town Hall at which they gave away Orange emblems that were then worn around the town by Orangemen and supporters of Murphy. Almost inevitably this was followed by skirmishes in the streets between Irish and English.

On Sunday afternoon the Irish assembled in Bentinck Street and Old Street wearing green ribbons and led by John Flynn. The Orange crowd held Henry Square. During the fighting which soon broke out both sides threw stones, while the Irish freely used their revolvers, forcing the Orangemen to retreat. The police intervened, persuading the Irish to pull back and arresting a man named McHugh for drunkenness. The Irish then made another charge, firing many shots at the Orangemen in Old Street who retaliated by attacking Irish houses in Peter Street and Cavendish Street, Flag Alley, breaking the windows with stones and hatchets and, as in the riot in Stockport, dragging the furniture into the street where it was smashed or burned by the crowd which numbered several thousand by now. At least 100 people were left homeless. The Orange crowd then moved on to attack St Ann’s Roman Catholic chapel. They were held off for a while by shots fired by its defenders but eventually broke in and ransacked the place, smashing windows and pews and destroying the statues. They also damaged the house of the priest and local Catholic schools.

At about ten o’clock in the evening a large Orange crowd attacked St Mary’s Roman Catholic chapel in Charlestown, which was defended by men from the congregation armed with revolvers, including a number of Fenians it was later rumoured in the parish. One of the attackers, a man named William Ibbetson, was wounded in the stomach. While this was happening the Irish attacked houses in Blatford Street. Finally, around midnight, the magistrates read the Riot Act and the violence finally died out. The police arrested John Flynn. There was one fatality, a woman named Mary Bradby who died in Lower Bentinck Street. Initially it was reported that she had been trampled by the Orange crowd whilst watching what was going on but, after hearing evidence that she bore no trace of any injuries and had a bad condition of the heart, the inquest held a few days later decided that she had died of fright.

Next morning trouble started again between the hours of nine and ten in the morning when the Orange crowd resumed its attack on St Mary’s and pillaged some Irish houses in Hill Street. When special constables intervened the crowd set off for Stalybridge singing “Rule Britannia”. The police tried to bar the way but the crowd found another path and went to the Irish area in Henry Street where they started smashing windows until the police caught up with them and drove the rioters into the River Tame.

In the course of Monday a man called Houston (described in the press as “the anti-Popery lecturer”) delivered a lecture to sixty people or so in the Old Mill, Charlestown, blaming the disturbances on Roman Catholics, but there was no trouble afterwards. Some of the “peaceably disposed” Irish spent Monday night on Ashton Moss, fearing to return to their houses. The Mayor of Ashton opened a subscription list for the benefit of those who has lost their homes, while some English families offered to take in homeless Irish women and children. Seven Irishmen and fifteen Englishmen subsequently appeared before the magistrates, charged with various offences in connection with the rioting. The Pall Mall Gazette’s comments on the events in Ashton could equally have applied to Murphy’s whole career, pointing to a deep-rooted anti-Catholicism as an explanation:

Such an insignificant creature as Murphy could never have lighted such a fire as this if there had not been a vast mass of fuel ready to his hand. The ease with which he stirred up the feelings of the people both at Birmingham and in the North shows how powerful and widely spread those feelings… The overwhelming majority of Englishmen of all ranks of life do from their very hearts, and in a great variety of ways, utterly detest superstition and priestcraft…

Article by Michael Herbert

Stockport riot, June 1852

There was a short-lived but violent anti-Irish riot in Stockport in June 1852. The causes appear to have been local resentment at Irish migration into the town, coupled with public concern at the growth and public displays of Catholicism. Protestants organized into Associations spurred on by a number of Protestant priests and politicians. The outburst was not repeated.

The revival of Catholicism and the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in Britain by the Pope in September 1850 caused some Protestants to fear that the old enemy was plotting to reclaim their country for Rome. These fears were stoked higher by a badly worded pastoral letter issued by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman in which he told his fellow Englishman that “Your beloved country has received a place among the fair churches, which, normally constituted, form the splendid aggregate of Catholic communion; Catholic England has been restored to its orbit in the ecclesiastical firmament, from which its light had long vanished”.

There was a popular belief that the Pope was still making a claim to some authority in Britain (Queen Victoria is alleged to have asked “Am I Queen of England or am I not?”), which led to a wave of anti-Catholic meetings and protests against “Papal aggression”, including one in Manchester in the Free Trade Hall on 21st November 1850. Local anti-Catholic cleric Reverend Hugh Stowell delivered a lecture on papal aggression at the Free Trade Hall on 16th January 1851. Stowell was the first priest at the new church of Christ Church, Acton Square, Salford, opened in 1831. From the beginning he preached a fervent brand of fundamentalist Protestantism, denouncing Dissenters, Tractarians and “Popery” from the pulpit and from public platforms (there was little distinction). In 1839 he also founded the Salford Operative Protestant Association, which distributed pamphlets by the thousand for many years.

Anti-Catholicism reached deep into the roots of English society in this period. For many it defined who they were as Englishmen and women and explained and revealed English history as a journey from superstition and darkness into liberty and light. The popular writer Charles Kingsley, for instance, attacked Catholicism in many of his novels and writings. In an article published in 1848 entitled “Why Should We Fear the Romish Priests?” he wrote:

The real history of England, from Ethelbert to the Reformation, is the history of a struggle, issuing in the complete victory of the laity, the anti-national and hierarchic spirit being gradually absorbed by the national lay spirit, which asserts the rights of the citizen, the husband, the individual conscience. This battle has to be fought in every Christian country, the married layman and the celibate priest may make truce for a time, but they are foes in grain.

Jumping onto the populist bandwagon the government passed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act in 1851, which banned Catholic bishops from holding the same titles as Anglican bishops (which is why there is a Catholic Bishop of Salford and an Anglican Bishop of Manchester.) No prosecutions were ever brought and the Act was repealed in 1871 when common sense on these issues returned. Suspicions about Catholic intentions were also kept simmering by a number of high profile conversions to “Rome”, including those Anglicans associated with the Tractarian or Oxford movement. On 15th June 1852 (three weeks before the general election) in an obvious play to simmering anti-Catholicism amongst the public, Lord Derby’s Tory government issued a proclamation which forbade Catholics to walk in procession through the streets with the symbols of their religion.

However, the nineteenth annual procession by Stockport’s Roman Catholics went ahead on Sunday 27th June 1852, headed by local priests Reverend Randolph Frith of St Philip and St James, Edgeley and Reverend Robert Foster of St Michael’s, who were followed by local schoolchildren and Irish labourers walking six abreast. No banners or Catholic emblems were carried and even the priests wore ordinary dress, not canonical vestments. There was no trouble on the procession itself, apart from a small number of Protestants who hissed and groaned, and no trouble in the Irish public houses in the evening.

The following afternoon, however, an effigy of a priest was paraded by members of the local Protestant Association and later on Monday evening fighting between Irish and English began in the Bishop Blaize public house on Hillgate. The Irish ran into John Street and Edward Street – which were largely Irish streets – and gathered reinforcements, whilst the English did likewise. There was a short street brawl which had died down by the time the police constables, led by Mr Sadler, arrived and there were no further disturbances for the rest of the evening.

Large crowds gathered the following evening in Hillgate, armed with sticks and stones, and renewed the fighting. The Irish retreated to their home territory of Rock Row pursued by the English, who broke the windows of the houses in the street with volleys of stones, kicked in the doors and dragged the furniture into the street where they smashed it to pieces. Michael Moran, who had previously been knocked down and severely wounded in the head by the mob in Lord Street, was taking shelter on a bed in an upper room when the mob rushed in, smashed the furniture and wrecked the room. Other houses received similar treatment and the inhabitants – men, women and children- only narrowly escaped serious injury. Moran left the house, supposedly under police protection, but as he came out a man hit him on the head with a large piece of wood saying “Come, let us look at his head and see if he is an Irishman”. Moran died within a short time of his injuries. He was a single man and labourer, aged 23, who had been staying with his sister and brother-in law, James Hannigan.

The Irish replied with an attack on the house of Alderman Graham, a well-known Protestant, which was situated on Lord Street, very near Rock Row. They then turned their attention to the Protestant church of St. Peter’s and its schools. One eyewitness, a Mr Cheetham, later described the scene in the Illustrated London News:

All this time there was a continued screaming and yelling screaming, and about seven o’clock the blood of the Irish being tolerably warmed, they had armed themselves with the weapons they could lay hold upon readiest – pokers, soldering irons, sticks, pieces of chair, sickles, scythes, and other barbarous instruments, and were ready for conflict with any power that might present themselves. The scythes and sickles seem to corroborate the account given by some of the men subsequently apprehended, that they had only just come England, that being so, they were over here for the harvest, and these were their implements of labour.

The English then marched in force armed with pick-axes, hatchets, crow-bars and hammers to the Catholic church of St. Philip and James in Chapel Street, Edgeley, which had been opened in 1803. They smashed the windows of the priest’s house and then broke into the church, breaking the altar rails and smashing the altar and tabernacle. Women were described as being as “as eager and active in the work of destruction as males”. All church furniture, fittings, candlesticks, pictures, even the organ was destroyed. The priest and his friends, who had been hiding from the fury of the mob in the bell-turret, were forced to flee across the roof to a nearby house as attempts were made to fire the church. The rioters wreaked similar destruction upon St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church Chapel in Park Street (which had only opened the year previously), leaving little more than four bare walls standing.

Police finally arrested some rioters in the chapel and in total arrested 113 people, of whom 111 were Irish. The Manchester Guardian described the scene in the courthouse when the prisoners appeared on Wednesday morning:

Within a rail separating the lower end of the court from that where justice is administered were penned together some sixty or seventy youths and men, nearly all Irish, most of whom had bandages and plasters on their heads, faces, hands, and arms and legs…..others were moaning and bleeding and the whole formed a scene not unlike that of a hospital after a battle.

A number of other Englishmen were arrested and eventually ten English and ten Irish were sent for trial at Chester, where all the Irish – but only three of the English – were found guilty and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment with hard labour.

Local politics and the influence of the media appear to have played a significant part in stoking up anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish feeling in Stockport. A Protestant Association had been formed in December 1850, part of a national organisation set up in 1835 to campaign for the repeal of Catholic Emancipation and against Catholicism, which placed anti-Catholic placards around the town. Local Tory politicians such as Alderman Claye were members of the Association as were a number of Anglican clergymen, including most prominently the Reverend Meridyth of St. Peter’s church. Meridyth was an Irish Protestant who spoke at anti-Catholic meetings ( sometimes in the company of Stowell) which probably explains why his church was singled out by the Irish during the riot.

The simmering pot of anti-Catholicism and anti-Irishness was stirred by the Stockport Advertiser, which was strongly pro-Tory and published five anti-Catholic editorials in the summer, often linking the names of the Liberal candidates to support for “papal aggression”. There were explicit attacks on the Irish. “What is it that so often disturbs the peace of our borough, increases our rates and saps the very foundation of all our charitable institutions, but popery embodied in Irish mobs, paupers and fever patients?”.

The issue of the riot was raised in the House of Commons:

Mr Chisholm Anstey seeing the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, he wished to put a question to him with reference to the unfortunate affray which had taken place at Stockport. He begged to ask, in the first place, whether the right hon. Gentleman had any further information as to the causes that led to the riot than was mentioned in the morning papers; secondly, whether it was true that a religious procession of Roman Catholics was the original cause of the riot; and, thirdly, whether it was the intention of Her Majesty’s Government from this time forth to take effectual measures to prevent religious processions of that kind taking place in this country, where their recurrence was eminently calculated to excite breaches of the public peace?

Mr Walpole: Sir, with reference to the three questions put to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I have to state, in the first place, that I have received no further information than that which the daily organs of communication have put the House in possession of with reference to the unfortunate disturbances which have taken place in Stockport. In answer to the second question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman, perhaps I had better read to the House a passage from a letter which I have received from the Mayor of Stockport with reference to the origin of the disturbances: — As far as is at present ascertained, the disturbance appears to have arisen out of a quarrel between the English and Irish, in which, I fear religious animosity has been brought into play; but the whole matter was so sudden and unexpected, and the attention of myself and brother magistrates has been so entirely required by the necessary measures for preserving the public peace, that the facts have not yet been accurately ascertained. In that state of things the House, I think, will agree with me in the propriety of forbearing from the expression of an opinion one way or the other with reference to the origin of these disturbances. As to the third question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether it is the intention of the Government to prevent all religious processions which lead to these unhappy disturbances, I can only state that, both in England and in Ireland the Government have taken every possible precaution to discourage processions of such a character, or which can in any way lead to disturbances arising out of religious differences existing between different members of the community. We have done so in Ireland with reference to the processions which usually take place at this time of the year, by communications between the Lord Lieutenant and the magistrates, expressive of the desire of the Government to repress and check to the utmost extent processions which may lead to these disturbances. We have done so, also, in England; and all I can assure the House is this—that the present Government are anxious, above all things, that any of those ostentatious parades which may lead to religious disputes shall be discouraged and discountenanced by the Government, and I hope the country will support us in doing so.

Article by Michael Herbert

Rioting between the Orange Order and the Irish in Manchester

In the early 19th century Manchester was a major stronghold of the Orange order. There were occasional riots between the Catholic Irish and the Orange order in the first half of the century.

In the first decades of the nineteenth century Manchester was the principal centre for Orangeism in Great Britain. The colour Orange had been adopted by Irish Protestant patriots in memory and honour of the Protestant William of Orange, who seized the throne from Catholic James II in 1688 and defeated him in a series of battles in Ireland, most notably at the Boyne and Aughrim.

Inconveniently for subsequent Protestant Loyalist mythology William was actually backed by the Pope for complicated reasons of European diplomacy and his final victory celebrated with a Te Deum in Rome. It is the myths of history, however, that often turn out to be more potent and long-lasting than the prosaic facts and so it has proved with the Williamite victories which are still commemorated every 12th July in the North of Ireland by Protestants.

In the early 1790s there were clashes in Ulster between Catholics organised in groups known the Defenders and the Ribbonmen and Protestants organised in groups such as the Peep O’Day Boys, who had taken to raiding Catholic homes and farms for arms. In 1793 James Wilson, a Presbyterian farmer in County Tyrone, established the Orange Boys, whose members swore oaths to defend Protestantism and the constitution. On 21st September 1795 there was clash between Catholics and Protestants near Loughgall in County Armagh, in which several dozen Catholic Defenders were killed in an attack on Dan Winter’s Inn and which subsequently became known as the Battle of the Diamond. This led directly to the establishment of the Orange Order, which followed the example of the Freemasons by admitting members after the taking of oaths and organising itself through lodges. The order received the tacit support of Protestant magistrates and gentry and the first Orange parades were held on 12th July 1796. By the following year, faced with the threat from the United Irishmen, the British government was happy and willing to use the Orange Order as a useful ally in its struggle to reimpose its authority across Ireland.

British regiments and militias from Lancashire were sent to in Ireland at this time and a number of soldiers took the oath whilst serving, bringing back Orange warrants to England. In November 1799 Colonel Stanley’s regiment, the First Lancashire Militia, returned to Manchester with warrant number 320. The Manchester & Salford Rifle Volunteers (raised and financed by Colonel Taylor of Moston and commanded by Colonel Sylvester) returned with warrant number 1128. Discharged soldiers seem to have started civilian lodges which spread from Manchester to neighbouring towns such as Oldham, where Orange lodges held a 12th July march as early as 1803.

The first Orange riot in Manchester occurred on 13th July 1807 when Orangemen, carrying banners and marching to Orange tunes, joined a number of English friendly societies in a parade to the Collegiate Church. On leaving the church there was a confrontation with Catholics in Church Street and High Street. The location is significant, being very close to the Catholic meeting place in Roman Entry. The Deputy Chief Constable Nadin had to call for troops to restore order. The Manchester Gazette afterwards claimed that “No Popery” signs had been chalked on walls before the march and that local regiments had been playing Orange tunes when recruiting in the town. It seems that tensions were high even before the Orange march took place.

Local Orangemen Ralph Nixon later claimed that Irish Catholics had attacked the march. In a letter to the British Volunteer newspaper on 25th July he stated that “Orange principles are imperfectly known in England and those who attacked them were misled by an erroneous opinion that our views are hostile and directed against papists. Orangemen are zealously attached to the king and admire our matchless constitution”. Nixon’s letter points to the motivation of the English Orangemen as veering more towards maintenance of the political status quo in Britain than a direct association with the politics of Ireland, although the two were connected. Like the Church and King Clubs of the 1790s the Orange Order was a useful organisation for local magistrates and gentry (often the same people) to deploy against their enemies, the radicals and reformers.

Nixon wrote to Ireland for authority to found a Grand Lodge in Britain and approached Colonel Taylor and Colonel Fletcher of Bolton to act as Grand Masters. Fletcher was particularly assiduous in opposing any hint of radicalism in his home town and had routinely employed spies to infiltrate radical organisations. In May 1808 a meeting at the Star Hotel on Deansgate, where lodges had already been accustomed to meet, established the English Grand Lodge with Taylor as Grand Master, Fletcher as Deputy Grand Master and Nixon as Grand Secretary. The original Irish warrants were now cancelled and henceforth the English lodges obtained their credentials from the new Grand Lodge. By 1811 there were some 68 lodges in the Manchester region – according to The Orange Miscellany and Orange Man’s Guide published in 1815 – and 77 in Lancashire in 1830. Ralph Nixon made an abrupt and permanent exit from the organisation in 1821 when he was sentenced to seven years transportation after being charged with burglary.

There was further trouble in Manchester in 1830. A group of Irishmen, apparently employed at Parker’s factory, attacked a number of public houses where the Orange lodges were meeting to celebrate the 12th July and had hung banners out of the windows. At the Boars Head on Withy Grove they stormed upstairs, seized the flag, tore it to pieces and trampled it in the street. There were similar scenes at the Queen Anne on Long Millgate and at the Union Tavern on Garratt Street. Town constables finally arrived and seized some of the stragglers as the Irishmen were returning home along Bank Top and lodged them in the Market House. When the rest of the party realised what had happened they promptly returned and released the prisoners by smashing open the gates. (These same Irish weavers were involved in a strike at Parker’s in March 1831 when they demanded an increase in the price they received for weaving shirtings and calicos).

In 1834 Manchester Orange lodges celebrated in the usual manner with banquets on the 12th July . On the following day, which was a Sunday, several hundred Orangemen assembled in St Ann’s Square and marched to St George’s Church, Hulme to attend divine service. On the way back they were attacked in Cateaton Street by several hundred Catholics armed with sticks and stones. The fighting was finally stopped by the 5th Dragoons, summoned by the town authorities. There was more trouble later that evening outside the Windmill public house on St George’s Road, which was a meeting place for an Orange lodge. Police arrived and forestalled an attack on the pub. There was further disturbance the following day near the Briton’s Protection public house on Oldham Road when the whole police force had to turn out to stop the sexton of St George’s Church on St George’s Road from being killed. Daniel Hearne subsequently confiscated weapons and appeared in court to speak on behalf of the rioters.

In 1835 the Orangemen assembled in Jackson’s Row and paraded to St James Church. The procession itself passed off with only minor incidents and two arrests, one of them an Orangemen named Solomon Johnson Mackintosh, who claimed in court that he always carried a loaded revolver for self-defence. The Manchester lodge dined the following evening at the Hare and Hounds, Water Street without disturbance. There was trouble the next night, however, when a crowd gathered in the brickfields on St George’s Road and smashed the windows of a house which had recently put up a figure of William of Orange above the door.

That same year the Orange Order in England was investigated by a Commons Select Committee after rumours that its Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland (a reactionary even by the standards of his own class), intended to use the order to stage a coup and replace the king on the throne. The report condemned the order for provoking trouble between Protestants and Catholics and in response the Cumberland formally dissolved the organisation. It soon reappeared, however, in two forms – the Orange Institution and the Orange Association – which eventually united in 1874. In the wake of the Irish Famine and the huge Irish emigration into Lancashire the heartland of the movement moved to Liverpool, although there continued to be branches in Manchester and nearby towns.

The last riot in Manchester in connection with an Orange procession occurred in 1888. On Sunday 8th July members of Orange lodges gathered at Portland Street and proceeded across Great Ancoats Street and down the Irish area of Canal Street , heading for St Mark’s Church on Holland Street. The Orange marchers claimed that in Canal Street they were subject to a premeditated attack by a hundred youths brandishing hatchets and knives during which two men – Joseph Walmsley and Daniel Ritchie – received serious head wounds and 40 police officers who had been summoned by telephone took a half hour to suppress. A letter in the Manchester Guardian a few days later (whose author gave only the initials J.P.) disputed this version of events and claimed that it had began after a boy had thrown a stone at the march and been followed by a prominent member of the Orange procession. “No-one will sympathise with persons who insult any body of men passing peacefully along the street, but I maintain that …..the organisers of such processions, whether of Orangemen or any other party, are often morally blameable in marching their forces through the midst of a population entirely antagonistic to them.”

Article by Michael Herbert