A pair of riding stirrups worn by King William at the Battle of the Boyne have gone on public display for the first time ever at the Orange heritage centre in Limavady.
The historic 17th century artefacts - with an outstanding Royal legacy - were purchased by the Orange Institution in Co Londonderry from a private vendor, having previously failed to meet reserve price at auction in London last summer.
The stirrups – originally owned by Charles I and dated 1626 – will now take pride of place at the outreach facility’s museum.
Aaron Callan, trustee at the Orange heritage centre, described the acquisition of the stirrups as a “massive coup” for Limavady, the north-west, and the museum sector in Northern Ireland.
He said: “We are delighted to have acquired such a prestigious artefact, given their direct association with one of the principal and revered figures of the seminal battle of the Glorious Revolution. The authenticity of the stirrups has been verified, and we are immensely proud to now be the guardians of such coveted horse furniture.
“According to the information we have received they are the second oldest Royal stirrups in existence, so they are hugely significant for Orange history, but also for British, Irish and European history.”
Mr Callan also confirmed there were several local links to the stirrups, reinforcing their connection with Limavady and the surrounding area.
Following the Battle of the Boyne, King William gifted them to his aide-de-camp, General Frederick Hamilton, who had an estate in Londonderry. The stirrups, along with a pair of King William’s gloves and a saddlecloth, were subsequently inherited by the Cary and Beresford families (the former from Dungiven), before passing to the ownership of the Blacker family.
He added: “As a new and stunning centrepiece of our permanent collection, we hope the stirrups will be something people will come and see, and enjoy.”
Mr Callan confirmed the vendor wished to remain anonymous.
William Semple, trustee of Dungiven Orange lodge, said the lodge were delighted to partner with the heritage centre in the purchase of such a significant item.
He said: “Not only do the stirrups represent a part of our rich Orange heritage but they also have significance to the Dungiven area and as trustees of the lodge we are pleased to be associated with bringing this part of our history back within the Orange family.”
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, congratulated both the Limavady heritage centre and Dungiven Faith and Crown Defenders LOL 2036 for attaining the stirrups.
He said: “The Grand Lodge of Ireland is the custodian of a number of significant artefacts which belonged to or date to the period of William of Orange. The stirrups are a wonderful addition to the impressive collection offered by our network of Orange museums across the province.
“ would encourage the wider public to visit Limavady and witness these tremendous and unique historical pieces for themselves, and in so doing learn more about our shared history.”
In the 1800s, the Blacker family placed the stirrups, saddlecloth and gloves with Grand Lodge for safe-keeping. Apart from the stirrups which were retained, they were later gifted to the Orange Institution. Both the saddlecloth and the gloves are now part of the Williamite collection on display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.
The Limavady heritage centre includes an Orange museum, function room, lodge room and offices. Opened last year, it features details on the early lodges and Orange halls in the locality as well as prominent figures within the Institution locally. Artefacts from 19th century Orangeism, the Home Rule period and both world wars are among those on display.
The heritage centre is open to the public on Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 3pm. For more information and group bookings, visit the dedicated website at www.limavadyorange.com