Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winnington, Thomas
WINNINGTON, THOMAS (1696–1746), politician, born on 31 Dec. 1696, was the grandson of Sir Francis Winnington [q. v.], and second son of Salwey Winnington, many years member of parliament for Bewdley, who married on 24 July 1690 Anne, second daughter of Thomas Foley of Great Witley, and sister of Thomas, lord Foley [see under Foley, Thomas]. He was educated at Westminster school and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated on 25 April 1713. In 1714 he was admitted student at the Middle Temple. He was said, while at Christ Church, to have been called ‘Penny’ Winnington, from his meanness of disposition; a name so printed occurs among the subscribers to Bishop Smalridge's ‘Sixty Sermons’ (1724).
At a by-election on 31 Jan. 1725–6 Winnington was returned to parliament for the borough of Droitwich, and represented it continuously until 1741. He was then elected both for it and the city of Worcester, and preferred to sit for the latter constituency, which he represented until his death. Though ‘bred a tory,’ he soon became a zealous whig, and one of Walpole's chief supporters, being rewarded for the change by appointment to high office. He was lord of the admiralty from May 1730, and in 1735 Lord Hervey pressed Walpole to put him into the treasury as ‘from his party knowledge and application of infinite use in the House of Commons;’ but he was then not liked by either king or queen, and Walpole, much to Winnington's resentment, would not promote him on that occasion. From May 1736 to 1741 he served at the treasury, he was cofferer of the household from April 1741 to 1743, and paymaster-general of the forces from December 1743 to 1746. On 27 April 1741 he was created a privy councillor. In August 1743, on Pelham's appointment as prime minister, Walpole, then Lord Orford, wrote to him, ‘Winnington must be had.’ When the king endeavoured in 1746 to form an administration under Lords Bath and Carteret, he relied on Winnington being chancellor of the exchequer and leading the House of Commons, but Winnington at his interview with George II thrice declined to accept the post. Next day the king told him that as the honestest man in his service he should have the honour of making the reconciliation between the sovereign and the Pelhams (Coxe, Pelham, i. 93, 111, 197, 288, 291).
Winnington led a life of gallantry, and in mature life loved expense. Audrey, lady Townshend, was one of his friends, and her wishes often guided his action. He was possessed of a very strong constitution, and seemed destined for a great position in politics; but he died prematurely on 23 April 1746, through the erroneous treatment of his medical attendant, Thomas Thomson, M.D. Towards the end of March he had been ill with a cold, and on his return from the country on 6 April was suffering from fever. He was then subjected to excessive purgings and bleedings. The notoriety of the case produced pamphlets from Thomson, J. Campbell, M.D., William Douglas, M.D., and from an anonymous hand in the ‘Genuine Tryal of Dr. Nosmoth.’
Winnington married, on 6 Aug. 1719, Love, daughter of Sir James Reade, bart., of Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire. She died on 25 June 1745, and their only child, Francis Reade Winnington, was born and died in 1720. On the death of her only brother in 1712 the family estates were partitioned among the sisters, and the estate of Brocket fell to her share. At Winnington's death it was divided between his two sisters. It afterwards became celebrated as the residence of Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston. Winnington was buried in Stanford church, and a marble monument by Roubiliac was erected to his memory by Sir Charles Hanbury Williams [q. v.], his friend, and Sir Edward Winnington, his heir. The lines on it were by Williams, in whose works are many references to Winnington. In sending the news of his death to Mann, Horace Walpole spoke of Winnington as ‘one of the first men in England from his parts and from his employment,’ without an equal in public life, and as marked out to be the prime minister of England. His wit was ‘ready and quick as it was constant and unmeditated,’ but he lost reputation at times through affecting to laugh at his own want of principle. After his death there appeared ‘An Apology for the Conduct of a late celebrated Second-rate Minister from 1729 to 1746. Written by himself and found among his papers,’ the object of which was to prove that Winnington acted in the interest of the Jacobites. His executors thought it necessary to advertise the spuriousness of this tract, and it was formally answered by several writers, including ‘the author of the “Jacobite's Journal,”’ i.e. Henry Fielding.
Winnington's portrait by Van Loo is in the Guildhall, Worcester; he is depicted in his robes as recorder of the city; a portrait in enamel by Zincke is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. A print of him, ‘from an original at Pontypool Park, was published on 1 Feb. 1802’ (Coxe, Monmouthshire, p. 240). He is one of the six persons in Hogarth's portrait group belonging to the Earl of Ilchester (Exhib. of Old Masters, 1889, No. 143).[Nash's Worcestershire, i. 368–70; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 317, 370, 408; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Williams's Parl. Rep. of Worcestershire, pp. 102, 131; Walpole's George II (1846 ed.), i. 174; Walpole's Letters, i. passim, ii. 7–8, 19–20; Gent. Mag. 1745 p. 332, 1748 p. 56; Ballantyne's Carteret, p. 394; Hervey's Memoirs (1884 edit.), ii. 158–64; New Foundling Hosp. for Wit, vi. 146–7; Almon's Anecdotes, iii. 393–5.]