Opening of an Orange Hall at Blackburn

Brilliant Oration by Bro. W J Austin JP DGM

& Enthusiastic Proceedings

‘The genial and popular Deputy Grand Master of England, Br W J Austin JP, visited Blackburn last Saturday for the purpose of opening a new Orange Hall.  Br Austin has rejected about seventy invitations to public meetings since his illness began four months ago, and it was in defiance of medical advice, and at considerable personal risk and inconvenience, that he attended to perform this important function.  But, notwithstanding this circumstance, the entire proceedings, which included an inaugural address by Br Austin and a banquet over which he subsequently presided, were conspicuously successful.  The able and brilliant speech of the DGM, delivered, in spite of his illness, with all his old fire and enthusiasm, formed a splendid contribution to the important events of a memorable occasion, and the reception accorded to his remarks plainly proved that his popularity, as one of the most eloquent exponents of Orange principles, increase with the lapse of time.  It was, indeed, no ordinary occasion.  Blackburn has lifted high the banner of Protestantism, and set a noble example to every province in England by erecting a splendid and durable monument of Orange enterprise and principles.  Numerous halls exist throughout the country which have been converted and are now utilised for the promotion of Orangeism, but Blackburn enjoys the distinguished honour of having erected the first Orange Hall in England, specially built for that purpose.  To the district of Blackburn alone belongs this proud distinction.

In that district Orangeism is a potent factor in the political and social life of the community, and if public opinion showed any tendency to favour deleterious and dangerous doctrines of public plunder or imperial disintegration, 1,400 Blackburn boys would know the reason why.  And these are not merely preachers of principles, but men of action.  Ably led by a devoted and energetic leader, in the person of Br Salisbury, PGM, assisted by Br Hanna, WDM, and Br Hadfield district secretary, and Br R B Shorrock, they are constantly consolidating their ranks, perfecting their organisation, and moulding public opinion, raising a firm and commanding voice above the uproar of controversy, and teaching men how to worship and what to believe.  Saturday’s ceremony was an event of national importance, and it was fitting that it should have been celebrated with much enthusiasm and great rejoicing.  To those who believe that on the maintenance of Protestantism depends the permanence of national freedom, progress and power, the opening of this palatial structure is a significant and gratifying sign of the times.  It strikingly indicates not only that Lancashire leads the van of Orangeism on this side of St George’s Channel, but also that the principles of the Order, the principles of sturdy Protestantism, civil and religious freedom and loyalty to the Throne and Constitution are rapidly advancing in public favour.

The new structure has a fine and commanding appearance externally.  It is superior to any other club premises in Blackburn and is undoubtedly an ornament to the architecture of the town.  The lodges of this district possess considerable resources, their funds ranging from £500 to £2000 and these collectively have advanced certain sums, besides which members individually have given and promised donations.  The new premises will be utilised for the lodges to assemble, both for business and recreative purposes.  They are very commodious.  On the ground floor there is a very good vestibule and entrance hall, reading-room, two large lodgerooms (capable of being thrown into one), conversation room, steward’s kitchen and bar, and the necessary lavatory arrangements.  On the first floor there is a large assembly hall, approached from the ground floor by an open, well-lighted staircase; in convenient proximity are separate cloak-rooms for ladies and gentlemen.  From this floor a good staircase leads to the second, in which is a spacious billiard-room, capable of holding four tables; two good card-rooms, and a smoke-room; also very ample lavatory and cloak rooms.  On intermediate floors are provided private rooms for the secretary and steward.  Approached by the back road are cellars for use in connection with the club.  It is well heated, lighted and ventilated, and the design reflects credit on Messrs Stones and Gradwell MMSA, of Blackburn, who prepared the plans and supervised the building.

The opening ceremony was announced for three thirty, and before the time arrived a crowd assembled round the principal entrance.  Punctually at the appointed hour Br Austin with several officers from Liverpool and Manchester drove up, and the DGM was most cordially received.  Br Hanna then stepped forward and on behalf of the Blackburn brethren welcomed Br Austin, and presented him with an elegant key of solid silver, most elaborately chased and engraved.  On one side was the crest of the Austin family, a phoenix, and above this a crown as symbolical of the loyalty of the family to the Throne.  On the other side was the inscription ‘Loyal Orange Institution of England.  Blackburn District.  Presented to W J Austin Esq JP DGM of England, on the occasion of his opening the Orange Hall at Blackburn, March 22, 1890’.

Br Austin then stepped forward and said – Sir, in the name of the great Architect of the Universe, in the name of her Majesty Queen Victoria Empress of India, in the name of the Grand Orange Lodge of England, in the name of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lancaster, in the name of the District Lodge of Blackburn, and in memory of William the Third, Prince of Orange, I declare this Orange hall opened and dedicated for ever to Orange and Protestant purposes (Loud cheers).  Br Austin then unlocked the door, and proceeded to inspect the buildings.  Subsequently a large and enthusiastic meeting was held in the assembly room of the club.  Br Hanna presided and in a few words explained the circumstances under which the DGM had appeared in their midst.’

Taken from a report in the Belfast News Letter 26 March 1890.  The Orange Hall remained opened until 1915.  The original building cost £2,500 to build and the foundation stone was laid in 1889 by Councillor Thompson JP.  The building is now Blackburn Masonic Hall.


Read more about the Orange Order in Blackburn.

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