The Great Conservative Demonstration of Manchester 1869 


Today, Manchester's politics are controlled by the Labour party, however, this was not always the case. Manchester and its surrounding towns has traditionally had a large Conservative support, particularly in the 19th Century. In this article, we uncover a largely forgotten part of Manchester's social history. Current Manchester institutions such as Manchester City Council and The Peoples History Museum openly celebrate Trade Union and Labour party history in our city, with a recognisable deep omission of the breadth of Conservative, Unionist and Orange social history of Manchester. Manchester Orange Order want the opportunity for a fair and balanced representation of our City's social history. ANON   


Disraeli Satirical Cartoon Against The Irish Church Bill
Satirical Cartoon showing Benjamin Disraeli rallying Church of England support against the Irish Church Bill, to disestablish the Church of Ireland.

On Saturday last, the ‘great’ Conservative demonstration, to protest against the Irish Church Bill, took place at the Pomona Gardens, Manchester.  About three o’clock the Collegiate Church Ward Association appeared in Albert’s-square, where the different branches assembled, and were followed by the other Manchester associations, including the Chorlton, Hulme, St Paul’s, Ardwick, and Conservative Working Men’s organisations.  The Salford, Oldfield-road, and Crescent districts came next, the former being a numerous body, and headed by Mr W T Charley MP.  The Harpurhey, Blackley, Moston, Crumpsall, and St James’s, St Clement’s, Oxford and St Michael’s Ward Associations brought up the rear of this division.  One-half at least of the entire procession was made up of the various Manchester and Salford associations, but those were greatly inferior to most of the out-districts as far as display and respectability of appearance was concerned.  Next in rank came the representatives of the associations throughout the county.  The detachment from Blackburn, numbering about 2,000, on making their appearance in the square, were loudly cheered by the spectators.  Two of their banners, on which were excellent portraits of the Earl of Derby and Mr Disraeli, were much admired and frequently applauded along the line.  Blackpool was also well represented.  From Rochdale and district there were also a large number present, estimated at about 2,000; from Hyde, Haughton, and Denton, 2,400; Stockport, 2,500; Bury, Elton and Radcliffe 2,000; Bolton 3,000; Ashton-under-Lyne 1,800; Stalybridge 1,000; Heywood, 500; Burnley 600; and Darwen, 200.  The numbers that took part in the procession from other places were comparatively small, although no doubt, most of those who came by the excursion trains afterwards made their way to the gardens.  It was expected that some four or five thousand would have gone from Preston, but only about one-half of that number actually went, seventy carriages which had been sent from Manchester to convey the remainder having to return empty.  This town was principally represented in the procession by members of the various Orange lodges.  The latter, after assembling behind the Infirmary brought up the rear of the procession, headed by the office-bearers of the Order in a carriage and four, in which were Mr E Harper and other dignitaries, with ‘the regalia’.  There were thirty-seven lodges represented in all, and although some fears were entertained as to a disturbance taking place between them and the Irish in Chester-road, those apprehensions were ungrounded.  With the exception of two or three small hand-to-hand combats for the possession of party ribbons, there were no other marked demonstrations of feeling antagonistic to the demonstration.  Flags and banners were carried in front of the different Constitutional associations or Orange lodges, and lots of them were headed by either brass or fife and drum bands.  The great majority of those who took part wore rosettes either of blue or blue and orange ribbons, and the officials of the Orange lodges were adorned with their sashes and other emblems.  On boards somewhat similar to those usually carried in the streets to attract attention to theatrical and other similar performances were injunctions ‘not to truckle to Rome,’ but to ‘uphold the Church’.  The ‘No Surrender’ element was also conspicuous in the mottoes and bannerettes, and several portraits of ‘William III of glorious and immortal memory’ with the words ‘The Protestant religion and the liberties of England I will maintain’ were carried in front of sections of the Orangemen.  The representations of the Prince who freed England from ‘the brass money and the wooden shoes’ were several times applauded, and two or three we my mention in passing were remarkably well executed.  It was about half-past six before the last of the Orange lodges passed out of Albert’s-square, and nearly seven before the whole procession arrived upon the grounds.  The estimates which have been formed as to the numbers are 125,000.

As the procession arrived in the gardens, portions of it were detailed off to the several platforms which, to the number of eight, had been erected in different parts of the ground.’
Report taken from ‘The Preston Guardian’ 19 June 1869.

A letter appeared in the Ipswich Journal critical of reports of a small attendance.  The letter said:

‘To conclude, I think we may confidently say that 120,000 persons attended the demonstration.  But if I am allowed to include sympathisers on the roadside, the number would be trebled.  I refer more particularly to women, and mill girls with their hair tied with blue and orange ribbon; also the dirty and ragged, but Protestant children, their hair similarly dressed, and bunches of blue and orange ribbon being waved in their hands, numbers of them with one voice singing rhymes to suit the occasion.  It is true there existed an opposition colour and party, but of a very mild character; they in like manner showing their colours and shouting ‘Gladstone for ever’.  I was greatly struck with the sight, at every yard or two, of old decrepid men, from 60 to 90, wearing their orange and blue, with a smiling face to boot, but who appeared more fit for the workhouse infirmary, than a demonstration’.


‘I, like Professor Rodgers, scarcely believed in a Conservative working man until Saturday. But the last four miles of the procession not only consisted of working men, but of those whose labour was to all appearance the most laborious.  The last body but one brought their Conservative wives and sweethearts with them, and blue and orange was the order for Saturday last.  Last of all came the Orangemen with their band and the banner representing William, Prince of Orange, on horseback, each one wearing the Orange insignia, and were vociferously cheered along the whole line of the route.

Manchester Orange

"The Protestant Religion and Liberties of England I will Maintain", 
William III, Prince of Orange

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