Orange Lodge marches have been occurring in Liverpool for nearly 200 years. The first took place as long ago as 1819 when the marchers were attacked by Irish Catholic immigrants in Dale Street, with the local media reporting that it was lucky nobody was killed.
Throughout the 18th Century Orange associations formed across England as more Irish workers came to the mainland due to the Industrial Revolution. The first Orange Lodge march took place in Manchester in 1807, with others also taking place there and in Bolton in the following years.
In 1819 the first march took place in Liverpool, with the lodges gathering first for dinners in their respective club rooms. They then marched to St Peter’s Church in Church Street where a sermon was preached, with the groups then joining together for a larger march which attracted many members of the general public.
The procession went up Church Street and Lord Street then turned into Castle Street. They then went around the Town Hall and marched down Dale Street. It was at the bottom of that street, which was very close to Marybone where many of the Catholic Irish migrants had settled, where they ran into trouble. A crowd, described by the Liverpool Mercury as from ‘the lower order of Irishmen’ had gathered, with one of them shouting ‘Now boys its time to begin’.
Bricks and other missiles then rained down on the marchers and as they tried to regain their composure, the mob who had gathered ran at them, tearing the flags and breaking the standards, the fragments of which were then used as weapons. Most of the marchers managed to seek sanctuary in shops or ran off, with the Mercury reporting that ‘happily no lives fell sacrifice to the savage fury of the mob’. A number were injured, having been punched or trampled and eight of the rioters were taken into custody at the scene.
The town remained tense for the rest of the day, with crowds gathering outside the Bridewell in Dale Street as well as Lord Street and Church Street. The Mayor had the army on standby to intervene if any more disorder occurred but unusually for the time, the majority of the populace were in favour of rioters being arrested, with crowds cheering as prisoners arrived at the Bridewell. A few days later though there was some sympathy for those in custody with letters in the Mercury condemning their actions, but at the same time saying the behaviour of the marchers had been provocative.
Those who were in custody were charged with riotous assembly once it was known that none of the wounded had life threatening injuries. On 23rd July, eleven Irish labourers were sentenced to three months imprisonment, and today the marches pass off far more peacefully.