Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winstanley, Henry

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WINSTANLEY, HENRY (d. 1703), engineer and engraver, was probably a native of Saffron Walden and brother of William Winstanley [q. v.]. In 1665 he was a ‘porter’ in the service of James Howard, third earl of Suffolk [q. v.] He was employed on Suffolk's buildings at Audley End, and when, early in 1666, Suffolk sold the place to Charles II, Winstanley was transferred to the king's service, and became clerk of the works there and at Newmarket (Braybrooke, Audley End, pp. 89–266). Winstanley engraved and published a set of twenty-four plans and views of Audley End, one of which bears date 1676. The completed set were dedicated in 1688 to James II, the Earl of Suffolk (former owner), and Sir Christopher Wren. The original issue (181/4 in. by 14 in.) was followed by a smaller set in quarto (Braybrooke, p. 86), and the plates were afterwards reissued as a supplement to the ‘Britannia Illustrata’ of Johannes Kip [q. v.] Winstanley obtained a certain notoriety from the whimsical mechanisms with which he embellished or encumbered his house at Littlebury in Essex; he was also the inventor and proprietor of a place of entertainment known as the Water Theatre at the ‘lower end of Piccadilly.’

Either on the strength of this reputation or at his own suggestion, he was permitted in 1696 to furnish the authorities of Trinity House with a design for a lighthouse to be placed on the Eddystone rock off Plymouth. The design was accepted, but his first project was succeeded by one, if not two, modifications. The solid base, twelve feet high and fourteen feet in diameter, was, after two years' work, increased to a diameter of sixteen feet, and the superstructure was erected to a total height of eighty feet from rock to vane. At this stage the building is said to have been drawn on the spot by Jaaziell Johnston, and an engraving of the drawing is given in Smeaton's ‘Edystone Lighthouse.’ In June 1697, while working at Eddystone, he was carried off by a French privateer, and the work destroyed. Early in July, owing to the admiralty's intervention, he was exchanged (Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 245, 247, 251). In the fourth year of the work the solid base was increased to a diameter of twenty-four feet, and its height raised to nearly twenty feet. In the same year (1700) the superstructure of the lighthouse appears to have been completed from a fresh design. The whole was a fantastic erection, largely composed of wood; the stonework of the base being bound with copper or iron. The engraving of the completed building as given by Smeaton is ‘drawn orthographicaly’ from a very rare perspective view made by Winstanley himself. The entire structure was swept away on the night of 26 Nov. 1703, carrying with it the unfortunate designer, who had gone out to superintend some repairs. John Smeaton [q. v.] suggests that an insufficient knowledge of cements was one cause of Winstanley's failure. As late as 1712 the house at Littlebury and the ‘Water Theatre’ were maintained as shows by Winstanley's widow, and exhibited at a charge of twelvepence a head (Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ii. 466–7; Essex Review, 1893, ii. 63).

[Arch. Publ. Society's Dictionary; Smeaton's Edystone Lighthouse; Worth's History of Plymouth, 1890, pp. 146–7.]

P. W.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.282
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
208 i 9 f.e. Winstanley, Henry: for (d. 1703) read (1644-1703)
8-7 f.e. for was probably a native .... of William read baptised at Saffron Walden on 31 March 1644, and was eldest son of Henry Winstanley (d. 1680) of that place. He was nephew of William