Winter, William (DNB00)
|←Winter, Thomas (1795-1851)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62
|Winterbotham, Henry Selfe Page→|
WINTER, or correctly WYNTER, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1589), admiral, of an old Brecknock family, was the elder son of John Wynter (d. 1646), merchant and sea-captain of Bristol, and (1645-6) treasurer of the navy. His mother was Alice, daughter and heiress of William Tirrey of Cork. His sister Agnes was second wife of Dr. Thomas Wilson (1525?-1581) [q. v.] It has been suggested that he was a near kinsman, possibly a brother, of Wolsey's mistress, the mother of Thomas Wynter [see under Wolsey, Thomas]. There is no evidence of this, though the friendly correspondence between Thomas Cromwell and John Wynter lends some support to the idea. William may be presumed to have served some sort of an apprenticeship to the sea under his father. At an early age he entered the service of the crown; in 1544 he was in the expedition, carried in 260 ships, which burned Leith and Edinburgh; in 1545 in the fleet in the Channel under Lord Lisle [see Dudley, John, Duke of Northumberland]; in the expedition to Scotland, under the protector Somerset in 1547; and 'the journeys to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey' in 1549 (Defeat of the Spanish Armada, ii. 311). On 8 July 1549 he was appointed surveyor of the navy in succession to Benjamin Gonson; aud in August 1550 he superintended the removal of the ships from Portsmouth to Gillingham. In 1552 he commanded the Minion when she captured a French ship, as a reward for which 100l. was given to be divided among her crew of three hundred men. In 1553 he voyaged in the Levant. On 2 Nov. 1557 he was appointed master of the ordnance of the navy, which office, in addition to that of surveyor of the navy, he held for the rest of his life. In 1553 he was with the fleet under Edward Fiennes de Clinton (afterwards Earl of Lincoln[q. v.]) when it burnt Conquêt. In 1559) he commanded the fleet sent to the Forth with orders to watch for the French squadron and prevent any Frenchmen being landed in Scotland (cf. Cal. Hatfield MSS. vol. i.)
On 12 Nov. 1561 he bought the manor of Lydney in Gloucestershire from the Earl of Pembroke (Fosbrooke, Gloucestershire, ii. 193), laying the foundation of his connection with Gloucestershire, which other later purchases strengthened. In 1563 he was, again with Clinton, in the fleet off Havre. On 12 Aug. 1573 he was knighted. In 1580 he commanded the squadron off Smerwick, and effectually prevented the escape of the Italian pirates. In 1588 he commanded, under Lord Henry Seymour, in the Narrow Seas, and joined the main fleet under Lord Howard off Calais on 27 July in time to propose the plan of driving the Spaniards from their anchorage by fireships, and to take a brilliant part in the battle off Gravelines on the 20th. ` My fortune,' he wrote to Walsingham, ` was to make choice to charge their starboard wing without shooting of any ordnance until we came within six score paces of them, and some of our ships did follow me… , Out of my ship there was shot five hundred shot of demi-cannon, culverin and demi-culverin ; and when I was furthest off in discharging any of the pieces, I was not out of the shot of their harquebus.' Wynter himself received a severe blow on the hip by the overturning of a demi-cannon. It was the only time in his long career in which he had any hard fighting, but both before and after the battle his letters to Walsingham show that he understood, though he was probably the only man in the fleet who did fully understand, the completeness of the defence by the navy. Howard and Drake both seemed to think that, notwithstanding the defeat of the Spanish fleet, the Spanish army might still attempt the invasion. Wynter, calling up his recollections of the expedition to Leith in 1544, argued that to bring across thirty thousand men with their stores would require at the very least three hundred ships; and if the Dutch only furnished the thirty-six sail which they had promised, ` I should live until I were young again ere the prince would venture to set his ships forth' (Defeat of the Armada, i. 213-14).
In his official capacity as one of the principal officers of the navy,Wynter necessarily came into contact with (Sir) John Hawkins or Hawkyns [q. v.], the treasurer of the navy. There does not seem to have been any breach between the two, but there was no love lost, and Wynter had certainly something to do with the charges of dishonesty which were made against Hawkyns; in fact, on 8 Oct. 1588 he sent an autograph note to Lord Burghley accusing Hawkyns of extravagance and inefficiency. The burden of the complaints against Hawkyns was his partnership with a private shipbuilder to whom he dishonestly handed over government stores. If he did not do so, he had at any rate given good grounde for the suspicion, and he necessarily had enemies. The cause of Wynter's grudge against him does not appear, but it may be that Wynter felt aggrieved that he had not been made treasurer of the ` navy in 1577 instead of Hawkyns. The direct emoluments of the office were about double those of the two offices that Wynter held, and Wynter was unquestionably the more experienced man of the two, not only as a sailor, but still more as an official, Hawkyns's appointment was in fact a family job; and though Wynter must have known that such jobs were the rule, he may have thought them offensive when he himself was the victim of them.
Wynter died in 1589. He married Mary, daughter and heiress of Thomas Langton, and had issue four sons and four daughters. Edward, the eldest son, commanded the Aid with Drake in 1585-6, fought against the armada in 1588, probably as a volunteer in the Vanguard, represented Gloucestershire in the parliaments of 1589 and 1601, was knighted in 1595, and was sheriff in 1598-9. He was father of Sir John Winter [q. v.] William Wynter,the fourth son, commanded the Foresight with Drake In 1587, and again in 1595; in 1588 he commanded his father's ship the Minion.
The Vanguard's lieutenant, John Wynter, who also commanded the Elizabeth with Drake in 1578, and returned through the straits of Magellan, was Wynter's nephew, the son of Wynter's brother George, who in 1571 bought the manor of Dyrham in Gloucestershire. Kingsley, in 'Westward Ho !' has confused the uncle and nephew, and speaks of the man who commanded the fleet at Smerwick as the same that turned back through the straits of Magellan (cf. Cal. State Papers, Simancas, iii. 340-1).
The name has been very commonly written Winter and Wintour; the admiral himself, his eldest son, and his brother spelt it Wynter.[Visitations of Gloucestershire, pp. 273-4, and of Worcestershire, pp. 148-9 (Harl. Soc.); Atkyns's Gloucestershire; Rudder's Gloucestershire; Cal. of State Papers, Dom., East Indies, Foreign, and Simancas; Cal. Hatfield MSS. i-iii.; Acts of the Privy Council, i-xvi; Corbet's Drake and the Tudor Navy, 1898; Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Navy Records Soc.); Oppenheim's Administration of the Royal Nayy; notes kindly supplied by Mr. Oppenheim.]