Bradford’s Orange and Blue Banner: the Yorkshire tradition

The first page of the first edition of the first volume of the Yorkshire Orange  pamphlet, 'The Orange and Blue Banner.'
The first page of the first edition of the first volume of the Yorkshire Orange pamphlet, 'The Orange and Blue Banner.'

THE spread of Orangeism across the globe has resulted in the tradition taking root in far-flung places such as Canada, Australia and South Africa (even Hong Kong) to mention but a few.

This development is essentially a story of migration, or in quite simple terms, the movement of people.

In fact, the spread of Orangeism is one closely associated with the movement of British military personnel throughout the British Empire.

With this in mind, it is more than logical to assert that Ireland’s greatest export was its people (not its whiskey!).

With people came ideas, culture and traditions. From the pioneering Scots-Irish in America, to those who made significant contributions to the industrial development of Britain, those individuals who left Ireland certainly made their presence felt in the places where they settled.

The term used to describe this mass emigration is known, in academic circles at least, as an Irish diaspora (or dispersal), and much of the research within this field has tended to focus on the ‘Green’ or Catholic section.

Some academics have attempted to redress this imbalance in shedding more light on what has been termed an Orange diaspora, but as with any term, it has its limits.

It is used to denote those individuals from the island of Ireland who were Protestant, and in some cases, who were members of, or affiliated to the Orange Order.

With this in mind, my intention here is to highlight the Orange Order in Britain (no, not Liverpool or Glasgow), but specifically the industrial town of Bradford and its role in the wider development of the Order in England during the mid-nineteenth century.

But what is of interest here, is that the Order in the industrial heartland of England’s largest county was not sustained by an influx of Ulstermen, but rather through the importation of the principles of Orangeism.

As a history researcher I have often heard the complaint that much of what is researched and written is largely inaccessible to the wider public.

And this is a complaint that I wholly agree with! So here goes.

The focus then will be on a somewhat obscure Bradford magazine called the Orange & Blue Banner which ran from c.1851 to 1869 and its colourful owner/editor Squire Auty. The design and intent of the Banner is succinctly captured in the foreword that accompanied every issue: A MAGAZINE OF ORIGINAL ARTICLES IN DEFENCE OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION IN CHURCH AND STATE; A MONTHLY SUMMARY OF ORANGE MEETINGS AND DEMONSTRATIONS; HISTORICAL CONTRIBUTIONS INTERESTING TO THE PATRIOT AND CHRISTIAN; AND CONTAINING AN EXHAUSTLESS FUND OF ENTERTAINING AND INSTRUCTIVE READING FOR THE FIRESIDE.

So, what was the Banner all about you ask? In essence, it is a goldmine of information on Orange diasporic associational culture that sought to ‘spread the principles’ of the Order to a wider audience.

It carried a religious and political message to its readers that was both defensive and reactionary in nature with its clarion call being Jehova Nissi – ‘The Lord my Banner’ (Exod. xvii. 15).

The very first page of the first article sets out its intentions quite clearly: ‘We read that in seasons of danger in former times, Kings and Generals erected their banners on tower and mountain, to summon to the defence of life and liberty every brave soldier, and every loyal man.

‘Emergencies requiring such a gathering of all the good and true, must occur in the history of every nation; and it is but wise to have the banner erected and unfurled betimes, that it may attract the eye of the anxious observer, and at least shew [sic.] him “what way the wind blows”.’

But what was this danger? In essence, this danger equated to mass Irish Catholic immigration into the industrial hubs of Britain, which also witnessed the re-introduction of the Catholic hierarchy in is what known as the ‘Papal Aggression’.

These two events, alongside the perceived threats from Liberalism, Socialism & Chartism, provided much of the impetus for the expansionist mission of the Banner under the zealous direction of Squire Auty.

In many respects, the Banner is all about Auty and his ‘venomous denunciations of Rome’. Born into humble beginnings in Dewsbury 1812, he made his way in establishing himself as a successful Bradfordian businessman in printing.

He held what can be considered ultra Tory, Anglican, and Protestant views, becoming an Orangeman by 1844.

From 1851 Auty began to publish his beloved magazine, the Orange and Blue Banner (later changing to The Orange and Protestant Banner) making him a campaigner and champion of the Orange cause in England.

In the words of Don MacRaild, he was the ‘Order’s key protagonist during in the 1850s and 1860s.’

The Banner was very much Auty’s enterprise, which he financed pretty much from his own pocket for the duration of its existence, which was in many ways a labour of love.

Like many other men of a similar hue, Auty was energised by keeping his own Church free from catholic ritualism making a return to the Church of England. In fact, it was through his Anglicanism that he was came in to contact with a certain Bradford-based Irish cleric, Dr John Burnet, who introduced him to Orangeism.

Apart from the man at the centre, the Banner is interesting in that it reveals a somewhat different character to the Order which existed back in Ireland during this period.

Its content was concerned with more immediate and local issues that impacted upon the social, political and economic character of England, and more specifically – Yorkshire. Additionally, it reveals the other side of the Order – namely the convivial and fraternal aspect of Lodge and it provides a unique window into the day-to-day operations of the Order during this period in the unlikeliest of places.

As might be expected, one activity that preoccupied the Lodges in the Bradford district was that of stabling new lodges: ‘OPENING OF NEW LODGES – A few weeks ago, a New Orange Lodge was opened at the House of Mr. Benjamin Troughton, the Railway Hotel, Pudsey, near Leeds. Brothers Auty, Clapham, Holmes, Smith, Oddy, and Brennan, from the Bradford district, with a number of Brethren from the Leeds and Bramley districts, attended for the purpose of assisting in the opening of the new Lodge. Bro. Auty commenced the proceedings by explaining the Principles of the Orange Institution to all present, after which the new Lodge was formally opened, when fifteen good men and true were duly initiated Members of the Grand Protestant Association of Loyal Orangemen. Bro. John Farrar, Esq., was then appointed Master of the Lodge, and Bro. Smith, surgeon, Sec., and Bro. Troughton, Treasurer. After the closing of the Lodge, an excellent supper was partaken of, and the usual toasts and constitutional sentiments were given and responded to, and the evening was spent in the greatest harmony. (1851)’

Building on such early successes, the Bradford district had increased Lodge numbers from six in 1851, to some twenty-seven by the following year.

There were for example, Lodges in Great Horton (Bradford – No.133) and Halifax (No.593), not to mention other locations such as Silsden, Shipley, Pudsey, Leeds, Hull, Barnsley, Wakefield, and Sheffield (No.1011).

What the Banner also reveals, is that this local Orangeism formed part of a truly international or trans-national network that spanned the globe.

Therefore, the Bradfordian Lodges did not operate in isolation, but operated in concert with its international brethren across the Anglo-phone world.

The Banner sought to constantly remind readers and members alike that they were part of this global institution through articles like ‘Orangeism All Over The World,’ which made direct references to Australia and British North America with subscriptions for the magazine even coming from as far away as Hong Kong.

As already indicated, what also becomes apparent through reading the Banner is that many of the individual surnames connected with the Order show little or no connection with Ireland, or indeed Ulster, as one might expect.

As in Canada (especially Toronto) and places like Liverpool, many of the adherents of Orangeism were not in fact of Irish origin, but of English or Scottish stock, or even Dutch as in the case of South African.

The appeal of Orangeism thus extended well beyond the limits of the migrant populace and took root amongst the indigenous population – as was the case in Yorkshire.

This international dimension and its spread beyond the Irish migrant has been succinctly labelled ‘Wherever Orange is Worn,’ which was coined in response to Tim Pat Coogan’s ‘Wherever Green is Worn’, which has little or no recognition of Protestant migration from Ireland.

Putting such complexities aside, Bradfordian Orangeism is probably best understood in terms of parading and its public displays of loyalty during the all-important Twelfth celebrations.

‘ORANGEISM IN BRADFORD – On Trinity Sunday last, two processions of Orangemen took place in this town; that in the morning to St. James’s Church, Manchester-road, when the brethren walked from the White Hart Inn, Thornton-road.

‘At the front of the spire of the church was suspended an Union Jack, which floated gaily in the air, and the National Anthem was beautifully played on the organ on the brethren entering the church.

‘At the close of the prayers, the Rev. J.H. Burfield, the worthy incumbent ascended the pulpit and preached an appropriate sermon on the occasion; after which the brethren again formed in procession, and walked back again to the place from whence they started, in the same orderly manner in which they had proceeded to the church, highly gratified with the proceedings of the morning.

‘In the afternoon of the same day another procession was formed in the greenmarket, at two o’clock, and proceeded to the Parish Church headed by the Rev. Dr. Burnet, Grand Chaplin, in full cannonials; bro. John Farrar, Esq. P.P.G.M., and bro. S.F. Roberts, D.M., of Bradford.

‘The bells rung merry peal on the occasion, and on the brethren entering the church the organ struck up the National Anthem. (1854)’

The Banner is full of such examples and illustrates how the Orangemen of Bradford celebrated the Twelfth, which on certain occasions was augmented with visits from the ‘Orange Brethren of Liverpool’ which had the beneficial effect of putting ‘new life into the whole body in this neighbourhood.’

One of the mainstays of the magazine however was concerned with what it perceived to be the encroachment of Catholicism on the civil and religious liberties of England. It was very much perceived as a threat to the ‘Open Bible’ from the dictates from Papal jurisdiction being re-introduced to England.

Notable articles such as ‘Popery in Bradford’ allude to this fear, in documenting the arrival of a ‘batch of nuns’ or ‘female Jesuits’ which amounted to ‘weakened’ Protestants whose minds might be ‘poisoned against the truths of the Gospel, and thereby ruining their souls’.

The design and intent of the Banner was therefore one of protecting English liberty from an external threat which was further exacerbated by newly emerging political philosophies that threatened the current British constitution and monarchy.

The Banner is littered with examples of the political objectives of Orangeism and Auty described the community to which he belonged as both political and religious in its outlook that would never be wholly accepted by any political party, but could only ‘cling to those [political parties] who hold most in common with us, [and] whose views are nearest to our own’.

Electoral policy was thus centred only giving support to the parliamentary candidate whose views on the ‘Established Church of England and Ireland’, education and the encroachments of the Papacy were compatible with their own.

In attempting to fully appreciate this section of the Order, it is crucial acknowledge that Orangeism outside of Ireland operated in very different context or ‘sphere’ to that which existed in Ireland.

In Yorkshire for example, Anglicanism was, and still is, a minority faith within Protestantism, and the region was also a place that retained a relatively strong Catholic tradition following the Reformation.

These factors, along with a strong separate identity militated against the expansion and maintenance of an Orange culture in the county.

The mission statement of the Banner may well have been ‘to battle against popery – the sworn enemy of both God and man’ in order to save Protestant England from ‘papal bondage’ but its existence and success lay very much with the charismatic Auty. Following his death in 1869, both the magazine and the Order went into decline but did not disappear altogether, with some lodges still in existence in the 1880s and beyond.

What conclusions can be drawn from the Banner?

Well firstly, it shows that the Orange Order extended well beyond traditional boundaries of the migrant, and it also permeated beyond the Orange ‘hotspots’ of Glasgow and Liverpool. It found converts amongst those who had little no connection with Ireland or Ulster.

It shows the truly international dimension to Orangeism and how it reacted to the pressing religious and political matters of the day.

It was an important platform for Lodges to advertise meetings, marches and letters to an Orange audience, but it also shows that the orange tradition and its adherents in Britain were an Irish minority within a minority.

The magazine is an illuminating resource into a rather obscure corner of Orange history which warrants further research – something I hope to address in the future.