ORCHARD, John, of Hereford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

s. and h. of Walter Orchard of Hereford. m. bef. Feb.1426, Joan,1 3s.

Offices Held


Orchard’s father lived in Hereford in the 1380s and, when acting in 1386 as the proctor of Master Thomas Forneys, a priest from the diocese of York, was described as a literate person. The previous year John’s sister, Alice, had been suing for a divorce before Bishop Gilbert, but he himself is not heard of until January 1397 when, at the parliamentary election held in the guildhall, he stood surety for James Nash. Later the same year, along with other parishioners of St. Martin’s church, he made arrangements for the sale of property just outside Wye Gate in accordance with the will of a local smith. When his father died, some time before November 1402, he inherited property beyond ‘Le Druybrugge’, in ‘Wyebrugge Strete’.2

Orchard achieved some notoriety in the city in 1406, for, it was later alleged, at about midday on 14 Dec., he and Richard Barber, then sergeant of the mayor, broke into the sub-treasurer’s chamber in the cathedral and stole a dagger, a bow and six arrows. Appeals by the chapter and Bishop Mascall to the mayor, John May, failed to obtain redress, whereupon the bishop excommunicated the offenders. Orchard, immediately penitent, formally capitulated in the cathedral on 8 Feb. following in order to secure a reversal of the sentence. But Barber remained obdurate, and in April the canons travelled in a body to London where a great council was sitting, and there implicated the mayor in the alleged offence. The latter not only strenuously denied instructing Orchard and Barber to commit the felony, but also asserted that they had entered the chamber with the consent of the occupant, William Bradley, a monk of Alcester abbey, who had, indeed, sent them the key, so that they might investigate the theft of some stockfish of which Bradley was suspected. As they were friends of the monk and wished to protect both his reputation and that of the church of Hereford, the mayor had told them to make private inquiries. Barber testified that he himself had removed the dagger which, he claimed, did not belong to the monk but to one John Wodyer who had lost it in the street, and that it was Orchard who was solely responsible for taking the other items.3

This curious incident seems not to have affected Orchard’s local standing, for in November 1414 he again attended the parliamentary elections for the city and three years later was himself returned to Parliament. In 1421 he began a suit for trespass in the court of King’s bench against a local husbandman, David Tiler, and his wife and daughter. He also extended his activities outside Hereford by joining John Abrahall* and his gang from Archenfield. In September 1423, along with several others of Abrahall’s affinity, and described as ‘of Hereford, gentleman’, he was indicted before the local bench for having assembled 1,000 armed men at Michaelchurch and Gillow in the marches of Wales on 1 Apr. that year and started an insurrection against John, Lord Talbot of Goodrich castle, his arrest by the sheriff having been ordered subsequently. Since the charges were heard before Talbot himself as a j.p., when the case came before the King’s bench it was dismissed for lack of impartial evidence.4

By June 1422 Orchard had passed on some of his Hereford property, notably a tenement near the old south bridge in St. Martin’s parish, to his three sons, James, John the elder, and John the younger, but he and his wife retained at least three messuages, eight tofts, 28 acres of arable land and 22 of pasture in the area, along with the reversionary rights to land near the ‘Galewes’. He attended the parliamentary elections for the city in 1426, 1427 and 1429; and three years later, again in association with Abrahall and his supporters, was present at Hereford castle for the shire elections. Both Orchard and his eldest son were among the gentry of the county certified into Chancery in 1434 as liable to be sworn to abstain from maintaining breakers of the peace. Nothing more is heard of him. He died well before 1446, when all his lands, rents and services were forfeited to the Crown as a consequence of the outlawry of his heir, James.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Cal. Hereford Cathedral Muns. (NLW 1955), 167. The John Orchard who witnessed deeds in Hereford in 1360 and 1375 was probably a relative: ibid. 106; Hereford City Lib. MT/IV/28, VI/1.

  • 1. CP25(1)83/54/6; CAD, iii. B4117.
  • 2. Hereford Cathedral Muns. 167, 1923, 3195; Reg. Gilbert (Canterbury and York Soc. xviii), 82; C219/9/12; CAD, iii. B4117.
  • 3. Reg. Mascall (Canterbury and York Soc. xxi), 96-103; Hereford Cathedral Muns. 1154.
  • 4. Hereford City Lib. MT/VI/4, 5; C219/11/4; KB9/203/30, 222/2/51, 52; KB27/640 m. 53, 653 rex m. 9.
  • 5. Hereford Cathedral Muns. 87, 88; CP25(1)83/54/6; C219/13/4, 5, 14/1, 3; CPR, 1429-36, p. 377; 1441-6, p. 418; 1446-52, pp. 406-7.