Left is the Prince of Orange pub on Warrington Street and Wellington Road, Ashton, named after the man who was to become William III of England and William II of Scotland and who also gave his name to the College of William and Mary in present day Willamsburg, Virginia and briefly to New York which was renamed New Orange in 1673 after the Dutch recaptured the city.
However, it is his legacy of religious strife for which he is most remembered. Roman Catholic Ireland refused to accept him on the throne, supporting James II instead, and this ultimately lead to the Protestant victory at the Battle of the Boyne and centuries of religious hatred.
This manifested itself in Ashton during the 19th century. Below right is the death mask William Murphy and although he wasn’t a local resident, his intolerant preaching caused all sorts of religious unrest in the district in what became known as The Murphy Riots.
He was baptised a Catholic in 1834 in Limerick, but his father later converted in secret and then became head of a Protestant school in County Mayo. His son eventually sailed for Liverpool and made his way by foot to London, offering his evangelist services to the Protestant Electoral Union as an anti-Popery lecturer.
He then set about a career of inciting religious violence. His tactic was to book venues for lectures held over several nights which would culminate in a no-women, no-under 21s, lecture on the supposed secrets of the confessional which he claimed allowed priests to ask women questions of a most intimate sexual nature and of putting ideas into their heads that they would not have thought of themselves.
Not surprisingly, the local Catholic communities did not take too kindly to this and over several years, he caused riots in Plymouth, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Rochdale, with such claims “that every Popish priest was a murderer, a cannibal, a liar and a pickpocket”, mainly a reference to the Holy Communion.
Although he did not speak in Ashton, by 1868, his intolerance had taken hold. A group of men who had been at an anti-Catholic lecture in Ashton were ambushed on their return to Stalybridge by a group of Irishmen who had put out the street lights and placed ropes across the road.
The battered and bleeding victims plotted an attack on the Roman Catholic chapel the following day, only to find it guarded by hundreds of stone-throwing protectors and a rifle-wielding priest. It took two days to restore order.
That was in April, but there was further trouble in May 1868. Over 200 Irishmen attacked a large group of ‘Murpheyites and Orangemen‘ wearing ribbons and rosettes, promising to “drive the ******* English out of town’. This was followed by a counter-attack that severely damaged the RC chapel and left 20 houses in ‘Little Ireland’ without a vestige of furniture or clothing.
He was blind by the 1860s, whether the result of an accident or illness I’m not sure, but he still worked as a coal miner. They lived on Orange Street, just behind the Prince of Orange pub which I’ve marked with an orange dot that you can see if you enlarge the map.
The story goes that during the disturbances described above, a Catholic man banged on their door begging to be saved from the mob and that Jonathan hid him inside. When the mob arrived, they took the word of a blind man that there was no-one to be found inside and left.
Orange Street has long since disappeared under the bus station and it would be a good thing if all the religious hatred could be buried with it.
O shaped Objects by Snow Flowers
O is for Orphrey Nice by Rinkly Rimes
O is for Oh! at An Unfittie’s Guide
Opening at View Thru My Global Lens
O is for lots of things by Jay
Orange by Agnetha