ORCHARD, Paul (1739-1812), of Hartland Abbey, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1784 - 1806

Family and Education

b. 26 June 1739, o.s. of Paul Orchard of Aldercombe, Cornw. and Hartland by 3rd w. Rebecca, da. of Charles Smith of Isleworth, Mdx. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1757. m. 17 July 1764, Bettina, da. of Sir Robert Lawley, 4th Bt., of Canwell, Staffs., s.p. suc. fa. 1740.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Devon 1765-6.

Col. N. Devon militia 1779; lt.-col. commdt. N. Devon vols. 1794.


Orchard, who continued to represent Callington as an independent country gentleman until his retirement in 1806, was principally interested in militia matters and country sports. He was for many years colonel of the North Devon militia, which he brought ‘to the highest degree of credit and reputation’, until ill health obliged him to retire— it also affected his attendance in Parliament. He nevertheless consented to command the volunteers raised in his neighbourhood, ‘which station he filled with equal honour to himself and benefit to his country’. By 1804 he could claim nearly 30 years’ association with militia and volunteers.

In Parliament Orchard made no mark; he made no known speech in this period. In 1791 he was listed among opponents of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. One minority vote attributed to him, 8 June 1804, against the second reading of Pitt’s additional force bill, was subsequently contradicted: not surprisingly, for in a letter to Pitt of 8 Mar. 1804, in which he explained that he was ‘prevented by severe illness’ from attending his duty in Parliament, he stated his ideas on volunteers and defence and added ‘[my] sentiments ... accord with your own ... in a great measure ... you seem to divest yourself of all Party spirit, and act a truly disinterested part’. He agreed with Pitt on the necessity of attaching regular officers to the volunteers, and regular sergeants, corporals or lance-corporals ‘instead of those miserable coxcombs now employed’. In conclusion, he advised that possible enemy landing places should be pointed out to those in command of volunteers and the latter instructed exactly how to act in case of invasion.1

In the lists of 1804 and 1805 Orchard appeared as a supporter of Pitt. He voted with the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805. Some light is thrown on his attitude to politics in a letter of his to Lord Sidmouth, 15 Jan. 1805, in which he states that he is ‘still confined with a severe fit of gout and unable to write’, but ‘cannot refrain from employing an amanuensis to assure you that I have not words to express how happy I am to find that you and Mr Pitt are again united in forming an administration, that must receive the approbation of every true Englishman’. He added his congratulations on the title conferred on him and on the choice of Sidmouth, ‘as it marks strongly your attachment to the county of Devon, and your Devonshire friends’.2 He looked forward to resuming attendance at Parliament, but his health did not improve and he retired at the dissolution of 1806. His friend Lord Rolle thought he was being sacrificed to the convenience of Lord Clinton, patron of Callington. He died 1 Mar. 1812, ‘revered, respected and esteemed by all’.3

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1812), i. 393; CJ. lii, 450; PRO 30/8/164, f. 144; Morning Chron. 13 June 1804.
  • 2. Sidmouth mss; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 423.
  • 3. Fortescue mss, Rolle to Grenville, 22 Oct. 1806; Gent. Mag. loc. cit.