Royal York is a very old Lodge having been formed from the ranks of the York Fencible Regiment in 1796. The Regiment was stationed in Ulster to protect Britain from French invasion. During the ‘98 uprising the York Fencibles played a major role. In June 1798 the Regiment took part in the Battle of Saintfield and lost 56 officers and men [out of a total strength of 270]. The Regiment was disbanded in 1802 when some of it’s members joined the newly formed Rifle Brigade and fought with Wellington against Napoleon’s armies in Spain, France, and at Waterloo. However the Lodge remained in existence and the Lodge warrant (signed by the future King of Hanover, hence ‘Royal’) made its way back to Belfast where LOL145 has met ever since.
York has always been very active in the support of Orangeism and the ideals of the Glorious Revolution. Over the years the Lodge has supplied a number of Orange leaders in Ulster, Ireland and worldwide. The Lodge has also sponsored two successful daughter Lodges. In recent years the lodge has sought to develop and expand the cultural and community side of Orangeism. The Lodge has always been very proud of its origin in the York Fencibles. The Lodge has explored the history of the 1798 in Ulster and especially the Battle of Saintfield. The Lodge was the driving force in the creation of the York Island Arts and Heritage Association [York Island is a small area of ground just outside Saintfield where the dead of the York Fencible Regiment are mainly buried]. The Association has gone from strength to strength and set up a film company, which produced a much-acclaimed film about the Battle of Saintfield, “Brethren in Arms”. Many Lodge members took part in the film and wore the red and gold uniform of their brothers who originally created LOL 145. It has also produced an original play about the 1798 entitled “Who dares speak”.
Royal York was the first private Lodge in recent times to have held a meeting and dinner in the Palace of Westminster (by invitation of Lodge members Lord Rogan and Lord Laird). This historic event was held to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and was attended by many prominent guests including the Grand Masters of England and Scotland. York Lodge has been very active in support of the County Grand Lodge of Belfast’s efforts to make the Twelfth of July parade even more attractive to the community generally and to tourists in particular with the ‘Orangefest’ initiative. The Lodge has had a float or similar attraction in the procession for the past six years. These included a large scale model of a seventeenth century emigrant ship, a horse drawn brake containing Lodge members in the uniform of the York Fencible Regiment, and a float displaying the talents of the only English Lambeg drumming Club “Luton and Bedford”, and a float celebrating the role of Orangemen in the Armed Services.