ORENGE, John (by 1480-1538 or later), of London, Exeter and Plymouth, Devon and Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. by 1480, s. of John Orenge of Exeter. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1531, Agnes, 2da.3

Offices Held

Bencher, M. Temple 1511, Autumn reader 1511, Lent 1517, assistant Lent 1513, Autumn 1518.4

Bailiff, Exeter 1506-7, member of the Twenty-Four by 1508-16, receiver 1510-11; j.p. Devon 1506, 1515, Dorset 1530-8.5


John Orenge did not enter his family’s trading business but became a lawyer of some eminence whose services were sought in the south-west by magnates, religious foundations and corporations. He was already established in his calling by 1501 when he and several others were pardoned all trespasses involved in their enfeoffment of some land near Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. A petitioner in Chancery during the 1520s described him as ‘an aged and ancient’ man, but this was an ex parte statement and Orenge’s career did not blossom until after the accession of Henry VIII.6

It was as John Orenge ‘of London’, the son of a former citizen, that he was admitted to the freedom of Exeter in 1503-4. The corporation was soon retaining his counsel and he became a member of the governing body, where several of his kinsmen were serving. An opportunity to sit in Parliament followed hard on his admission as a freeman, and he was doubtless helped to do so both in 1504 and 1510 by his senior colleague at the Middle Temple, Lewis Pollard, who was the city’s recorder. When Orenge stood for election in 1510 his name headed the poll with 17 votes out of an electorate of 21. Of his part in this Parliament nothing is known. He did not offer himself for election in 1512, probably because he had failed to render his account at the end of his term as receiver and the other members of the Twenty-Four were cool towards him. Relations were not improved by his many absences in London and his pursuit of his other interests, and on losing his fee as counsellor and his place on the Twenty-Four he moved his Devon residence from Exeter to Plymouth. He voted at the parliamentary elections at Exeter in 1512 and 1515 but on the second occasion he was himself returned for Plymouth. The King had asked that the Members of the Parliament of 1512 should be returned again, but the town’s senior Member in that Parliament, Robert Bowring, had died not long after its dissolution and Orenge stepped into the vacant place. He had not yet made his home at Plymouth but his association with Bowring at the Temple probably helped him, as doubtless did the influence of Pollard, by now a judge and a power in Devon. He was evidently also content to serve without wages, for after the first session the town gave him the token sum of 13s.4d. for ‘his labour and attendance’. By the time the next Parliament was called in 1523 Plymouth had been his home for several years and although the Members’ names are lost it is likely that he was one of them. Six years later Orenge was living in Dorset, where he probably owed his seat for Wareham in the Parliament of 1529 to Sir Giles Strangways I, a fellow Middle Templar who was himself elected a knight of the shire.7

One of Orenge’s daughters had married a Plymouth man, Henry Hereford. Standing bound in £40 for Hereford’s good behaviour as customer of Plymouth, Orenge was sued in the Exchequer for the forfeit when Hereford was accused of malpractices in 1533; he appealed to Cromwell for judgment to be deferred and started a suit against Hereford in Chancery to recover his losses. Writing to Cromwell on 27 Jan. 1534 Orenge said that he had been ill for three months and was not able to travel to London before Easter: he may have been answering an inquiry as to why he had not been present for the opening of the sixth session of Parliament 12 days earlier. Nothing else is known of his attendance or activity, but he was presumably re-elected, in accordance with the King’s general wish to that effect, to the short Parliament of June-July 1536. While he lived in Devon, Orenge had been named only twice to the commission of the peace but he served on the Dorset bench continuously from December 1530 to July 1538. Since he was not named in the next commission, that of July 1539, he may have died during the intervening 12 months.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Exeter act bk. 1, 10v.
  • 2. Plymouth receiver’s acct. bk. 1514-15.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Exeter bk. 55, f. 67; C1/551/71; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 129; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 50.
  • 4. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 215.
  • 5. Exeter receiver’s acct. 1506-7 to 1515-16 passim; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 636; LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv-xiii.
  • 6. CPR 1494-1509, pp. 232, 580; C1/588/26, 721/33; Val. Eccles. i. 427; Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 318; LP Hen. VIII, i.
  • 7. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 64; Exeter bk. 55, f. 67; receiver’s act. 1506-7 to 1515-16 passim; act bk. 1, 61v, 71; Plymouth receiver’s acct. bk. 1514-15; C1/551/71; E. W. Ives, ‘Some aspects of the legal profession in the late 15th and early 16th cents.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1955), app. i. a.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xiv; C1/864/38.