As part of our Heritage Audit we have thrown open the doors and archives of Carleton Street Orange Hall to the LEXXER Solutions research team who have been working with our own volunteer archivists and researchers to piece together the exciting history of the hall. The following extract from the Survey and Condition Report of the Hall literally opens the door to the past.

“From this planning process which consisted of a series of facilitated workshops and study groups looking at different aspects of the building’s history, role, fabric and usage, a number of key documents were produced. One on the history and heritage of significance is worth reproducing in the report, as it outlines the importance of the building. 

The hall itself is a unique piece of architectural heritage, one of the most significant and oldest buildings in Portadown, and one which is inextricably linked with the Orange Order. It has its own story to tell but also tells the story of Orangeism, industrialisation, war and conflict as well as the hundreds of individual stories of men and women who used it. 

The result is a building that forms part of a unique heritage that has shaped the life of this region. It also is a result of the growth and development, the legalisation and legitimisation of the Orange Order, and the impact of the ruling classes on this working class movement. 

It enjoyed patronage amongst the landed and new middle classes with leading civic figures, industrialists and old landed families remaining involved. Indeed families like the Blackers saw it as a philanthropic and patriotic duty. This led in the early 1870s to the idea of a purpose built orange Hall, which would take meetings out of homes and local taverns and accommodate the order in premises which could be used for more wholesome activities. This was wholeheartedly supported by Rev. W Devenish and other clergy who was a prime mover. It is interesting to note that the District had until then met in a range of locations from private homes, to school houses and in public houses and hotels until 1849 when the use of public houses was banned.

In 1872 the land was granted and by 1873 the foundation stone of Carleton Street Orange Hall was laid by Baroness von Steiglitz, however Derrinraw LOL 10 a rural lodge built the first local Orange hall which was opened on the 16th January, 1873. Due to its single storey single room construction this small hall was built and beat Carleton Street to the title. Indeed the ambitious  nature of the urban hall and the move of its main driving force Rev Devenish to Liverpool seemed to stall the build. Due to demand it was opened unfinished   and it took the election in 1881 of Joseph McCaghey as District Master, to see the project to completion. A committee of  Dr G. Dougan, W.J. Locke, DDM William Paul, William J. Guy, Hugh Wallace, J. Bailey, W. Wilson, W. Jackson, W. Matthews, George Locke, W. Hall, W. J. Redmond, J. G. Livingstone, Richard Wilson, John Campbell, G. Sherman, and L McMordie, saw the project to completion. The total cost was about £1,500, and the most liberal contributions were Major Stewart Blacker, D.L.; the Baroness von Steiglitz, and Mrs Carleton.

The builders were Messrs Collen Bros, and the original construction saw an entrance hall with large feature staircase 5feet wide leading to a large room occupying the entire first floor. On the ground floor lodge and committee rooms were located. 

The hall was officially opened on Easter Monday 10 April 1882, chaired by Edward Wingfield Verner Esq J.P. Country Grand Master. A distinguished gathering and a large attendance of the brethren, 26 lodges being present. Mr saw speakers including Colonel Waring, Dr Chadwick, Bishop of Derry; Rev R. R. Kane, Rev G. L. Sweeney, Rev A. Fitzgerald, Rev W. Devenish, and Mr W J Paul. 

In order to pay off the building the committee continued its work under Thomas Courtney, and George Locke as treasurer. A final debt of over £40 still remained, and the Baroness organized a bazaar, which cleared off the debt, being assisted in the enterprise by Miss von Steiglitz, Mrs Close, Drumbanagher; Mrs O’Brien, Mrs Best, Portadown; Mrs Dougan, Millicent Terrace; Miss Carleton, and Mrs Stewart, Portadown.

In 1888 a number of Orangemen starting the reading room under the name of the Portadown Workmen’s Reading Room, the room and its work being later taken over by a Committee of the hall. In 1907 a bazaar was held in aid of improvements to the hall, and a sum of £1,200 spent on improvements. Messrs Collen Bros being again the contractors with Mr J W Walby architect.  It was here that a third floor was added and the facade of the hall was redesigned to what we still see today. The enlarged hall was formally declared open by Br W H Wright, District Master, on Empire Day (24th May) , 1909, the ceremony being followed by a concert and dance.

The project will aim to present not just the building but to tell the story of its role and relevance and to rediscover some of the original purpose and character of the building. There was in the spirit of Victorian social action the provision of a library and reading room as well as a games room to provide education and activities for working class men and their families. We would like to see those original purposes fulfilled. 

The hall was also a family home, as it was accessed and formed part of the living quarters of a caretaker and his family. We wish to recreate that family feel to the hall, and we also appreciate that with increased usage comes the necessity of staff. 

It was only during recent research that an exciting new concept evolved – that of a hidden history of the building. 

The Carleton family provided land and the Blacker family capital. It is here our research has uncovered ‘hidden history’ One of the main benefactors was Baroness von Stieglitz originally Hester Anna Blacker who married Frederick Lewis Von Stieglitz (1803-1866), the eldest son of Baron Heinrich Ludwig von Stieglitz a baron of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1802 the family moved from Pilsen, Bavaria, to Ireland, then emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land before returning to Ireland. 

This interesting German aristocratic connection and patronage was well known and celebrated in Portadown. The Hall was declared open in 1882, and the Baroness was an ardent supporter until her death in 1899 at the family home Carrickblacker. When an extension was added to the front of the original building and the enlarged Hall opened on the 24th May 1909, the architect payed tribute to the Blacker connection.  

However with the Great War Anglo-German relations soured and everyone from the Royal Family down sought to deny any German connections or connotations. This sadly was true for the Orange Order with its link to the 36th Ulster Division and the sacrifice of the Somme any hint of German support or the very name was denied. While no official policy was enforced it was simply not spoken of, and for over a century this connection was hidden.”

Follow the exciting story of how the hidden history of the hall was uncovered in our blog posts.