Orange museum to open in the summer

Denis Watson, County Armagh Grand Master, William Stewart, REACH Project outreach officer; and Ashleigh Hill, REACH Project marketing officer
Denis Watson, County Armagh Grand Master, William Stewart, REACH Project outreach officer; and Ashleigh Hill, REACH Project marketing officer

A new interpretative centre promoting the Orange institution in Loughgall is set to be open to the public this summer, it has been revealed.

Refurbishment of the historic building - where the first Orange warrants were signed over 200 years ago - is progressing well. It will be known formally as the Museum of Orange Heritage.

The museum, currently undergoing construction at Sloan’s House in Main Street, is part of the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The Loughgall facility will complement a new interpretative centre, also currently undergoing development, at the Institution’s Belfast headquarters, Schomberg House.

Branding for both museums, which was commissioned by the Grand Lodge, is now officially trademarked. It encompasses King William III on horseback and is based on a silver statuette from 1829, produced in Cork city, now in the care of the institution. The clearly defined saddlecloth represents the original version, also in the possession of the Loyal Order.

The official title of the Loughgall centre was unveiled by the County Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, Denis Watson, and senior county officers.

Mr Watson said, “The Museum of Orange Heritage in Loughgall will be a landmark addition to the cultural fabric of Co Armagh, and indeed Northern Ireland, as part of an unprecedented outreach project.

“As well as the formation and early development of the institution, the museum will display an important collection of documents relating to the beginning of the Orange Order.

“It will also tell the story of the Plantation as well as the surrounding area of Loughgall, including stories of local families to the area.

“This will include a display of Sloan’s Parlour, illustrated in a similar way it would have looked when the institution was first formed in Sloan’s House. The parlour will tell the story through graphics, audio visual technologies and the display of key artefacts.

“The building will also include a permanent exhibition space, tea room and research facilities.”

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said, “The Museums of Orange Heritage represent one of the most significant and exciting initiatives ever undertaken by the institution. There is now a sense of real anticipation as their physical completion moves ever closer.

“Both facilities in Belfast and Loughgall will allow us to preserve and present the impressive historical collections of the Orange Order.”