James Worral Sylvester

'The unsung hero of the English Orange Order'
1794 - 1857




James Worral Sylvester was born around 1794.  He was the second son of Colonel Sylvester of Chorley, the commander of the Manchester and Salford Volunteers, the regiment which was raised and financed by Colonel Taylor, the man who in 1808 became the first Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of England.  The Sylvester family owned mills in Atherton and Chorley.

James Worral Sylvester joined the Orange Institution in 1820 and was working for the Grand Lodge by 1827, having impressed the Duke of Cumberland and Lord Kenyon.  In 1829 he was a member of the Grand Committee.


In 1835, the House of Commons set up a Select Committee to investigate the Orange Order, following concerns expressed by the existence of Orange lodges in the army.   A report in the Manchester Guardian of 5 September 1835, alleged that a meeting of masters of Orange lodges had taken place at the Plume of Feathers public house, London Road, Manchester, where it had been decided that the Orange lodges would become sick and benefit societies and Conservative Operative Societies, if the select committee report went against them.  A negative report by the select committee, led to the Grand Lodge dissolving itself in 1836.


Following the dissolution of the Grand Lodge in 1836, Orange lodges continued at local level in several forms.  In Liverpool the majority of the lodges banded together to form the Loyal Orange Institution of Great Britain, although at this time none of the Manchester lodges joined this body.  Some lodges operated as Conservative Operative Societies.  In January 1837 the Atherton Operative Conservative Society held its first annual dinner at the King’s Head public house, following a procession in which flags were carried which belonged to Chowbent LOL 162, and the most prominent men at the dinner were both Orangemen: Philip Newton and Sylvester.


On 28 May 1836, Sylvester convened a meeting to establish a body known as the ‘Grand Protestant Confederation’.  The meeting was held at the Ramsden Arms in Huddersfield, and the new society adopted a code of Laws and Ordinances, a Grand Lodge was established to govern it, and Sylvester was appointed Grand Master.  The Confederation was nothing less than the Orange Order continuing under another name.  In July 1840 the organisation changed its name to ‘The Grand Protestant Confederation of Loyal Orangemen’.  Sylvester served as Grand Master for seven years, and was succeeded by Lawrence Newall.


In 1844 a group of lodges in Liverpool who had been operating independently with their own grand lodge and outside of the Loyal Orange Institution agreed to join the Confederation.  The Confederation changed its name once more becoming ‘The Grand Protestant Association of Loyal Orangemen’ and the Earl of Enniskillen agreed to become Grand Master.  By 1850 there were 269 lodges in the Orange Association, which included districts in Manchester, Bolton, Rochdale, Chowbent, Middleton, Oldham, Bury, and Ashton-under-Lyne.


Sylvester died on 1 October 1857 and is buried in Atherton cemetery.  Frank Neal wrote that ‘there is no doubt Sylvester is the unsung hero of the English Orange Order.  His initiative kept an Orange organisation alive’.






Manchester Orange

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William III, Prince of Orange


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