Earlier this month the History with English degree team from University Centre South Devon completed the fourth annual William of Orange History Walk. What is this annual tradition, I hear you ask? Essentially, a group of lecturers/students walk from Brixham harbour to Berry Pomeroy Castle over the course of a day in an attempt to replicate a small part of the route that William of Orange took when arriving in England in 1688 to take the throne from James II. The events of 1688 have become known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and I quite delight in how William and his invasion force walked on Long Road in Paignton, the very same road that my college – South Devon College – now sits on.
I have provided an overview of previous walks in posts of the past, including last year’s walk (which you can read about here), as well as photographs and further context from the first two walks (here and here). These previous posts outline the reasons as to why we replicate a stage of the walk:
The origins of all of this begin back in 2015. My colleague – Jon – was excited to tell me that he had read about the landing of William of Orange in 1688. He arrived in England – in Brixham – in order to give the current monarch of the time, James II, a stern talking to. William was the hope of Protestants in the country, and he was either invited over to take the crown, or he simply turned up with an invading army to grab the crown. Either way, James II turned and ran for the Continent, whilst William became known as William III. His fateful journey to London in 1688 began on the beach of Brixham, cutting up through Devon, on into Dorset, and eventually in the capital.
Jon was happy to tell me that William of Orange past our very own college: South Devon College. Of course, the college itself was not present back in 1688. But the very fact that William walked down Long Road, just outside of our office, was a pleasing one. The college was involved in an important aspect of local history, with a clear connection to a piece of world history that defined the nation. From here, Jon’s fascination with the topic grew; he came across a writer named Les Ham who wrote a walking-book about William of Orange’s journey. Deemed ‘the Orange Way’, it offers a series of walks from Brixham to London. The very first one – from Brixham to Berry Pomeroy Castle – was one we were keen to do.
As I have mentioned in last year’s posts, I continue to be thrilled with the walk: following the same footsteps as those from the momentous events in 1688 when the entire course of history for the country changed. Furthermore, there is also the aspect of camaraderie with those on the walk; the hot sun made the end of the journey something of an accomplishment. Perhaps the degree team should make the walk a rites of passage for all History students.
Interestingly, this year was the first time that the religious issue was raised; a family member on a social media site was flabbergasted that I was promoting an Orange walk. Of course, William’s reputation is incredibly sullied by his later barbaric tactics against those in the British Isles and Ireland, and it is an irritation that his reign has been hi-jacked by religious hate-mongering bigots. Therefore the team want to remove any link whatsoever to such bigotry. The Orange Way walk is a separate entity to the religious Orange marches, and the walk of 1688 should be celebrated as an event of local historical importance to those in Torbay. However, I think that in future years we will need to be more considerate of the wider context, perhaps by firmly naming the event as ‘The William of Orange History Walk’.
2020 will be the fifth time that the walk has been completed, and even though we sometimes have thoughts of continuing the route of the so-called Orange Way (as noted by author and walking enthusiast Les Ham), it is clear that every year the walk becomes more and more popular. Perhaps within the decade we will have a large enough group to rival that of William of Orange’s army from 1688.