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 e