Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winter, Edward

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WINTER, Sir EDWARD (1622?–1686), agent at Fort St. George (Madras), was the son of William Winter and great-grandson of Admiral Sir William Winter [q. v.] He was born in 1622 or 1623, and went to India about 1630, probably under the charge of an elder brother, Thomas, who was chief of the Masulipatam factory in 1647. In 1655 Edward Winter was appointed to the same post, but three years later he was dismissed, whereupon he returned to England, reaching London in the summer of 1660. He had amassed a considerable fortune, and, as he brought home his wife and family, he probably had no intention of going again to the east. The East India Company, however, in reorganising their affairs upon the grant of their new charter (1661), needed the services of an energetic man versed in the affairs of the Coromandel coast, and were willing to forget their former grievances against his private trading. Accordingly, by a commission dated 20 Feb. 1661–2, Winter (who had been knighted at Whitehall on the 13th of that month) was appointed agent at Fort St. George, on an agreement to serve for three years from the date of his arrival (22 Sept. 1662).

Before long, however, he was involved in a violent quarrel with his council, while serious accusations of fraud were made against him in the letters sent home. The result was seen in the appearance (June 1665) of a new agent, in the person of George Foxcroft, who had been instructed to take over the administration at once, and to inquire into the charges brought against Winter and others. Foxcroft appears to have been a weak man, wholly unfitted for such a task; but under the influence of Jeremy Sambrooke, one of the members of his council, he commenced with some show of vigour. The native brokers, who were accused of complicity in the frauds, were arrested and imprisoned; while, although Winter was treated with exceptional respect, there were rumours of an intention to seize him and send him to England for trial. Always a headstrong and passionate man, Winter was easily induced to use his personal popularity for the purpose of delivering a counter-stroke. A pretext was found in some incautious expressions used at table a month previously; and on 14 Sept. the chaplain, Simon Smythes (who had married a kinswoman of Winter), preferred a charge of treason against the agent and his son, and demanded their arrest. Winter appeared in support, and claimed that, as second in council (the rank assigned him by the company until the expiry of his covenant), the direction of affairs had lapsed to him. Both charge and claim were indignantly scouted, and, on attempting to harangue the garrison, Winter was confined in the fort. Matters being thus brought to a crisis, Winter, with another member of the council and the chaplain, signed a warrant for the arrest of the two Foxcrofts, and early next morning they were seized by the commander of the soldiers, though not without a scuffle, in which one of the members of council was mortally wounded. Winter was now released and assumed the direction of affairs, and for nearly three years Madras, the head settlement on the eastern side of India, passed entirely from the control of the company.

It was not until January 1666–7 that the news of what had taken place reached London, together with a rumour that Winter intended, if hard pressed, to make over the fort to the Dutch. An application was at once made to the king for an order to Winter to surrender the fort; but the latter had active friends at court, and it was not until April, after an investigation by a committee of the privy council, that a letter to the desired effect was signed by Charles II. It was now too late for a ship to be despatched to Madras that year, and all that could be done was to send the documents overland from Surat to Masulipatam. This course was taken, but without avail, as Winter refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the papers forwarded to him. Thus matters remained till the following year, when the company despatched six vessels armed with the royal authority to use force if necessary to effect the reduction of the fort. Madras was reached on 21 May 1668, and Winter, realising that further resistance was hopeless, surrendered on the following day, on a guarantee that the lives and property of himself and his adherents should be respected. Foxcroft was now released and reinstated in the government.

By special order from the privy council Winter was permitted to remain for a time at Madras to settle his estate; and it was not until the beginning of 1672 that he embarked for England. Upon his arrival a long wrangle commenced with the company, large sums being claimed on both sides. Eventually the question was referred to the arbitration of Lord Shaftesbury, who in June 1674 awarded Winter 6,000l. Later in the year Winter applied for permission to return to India to collect certain debts; but the company required so heavy a security that the idea was dropped.

Winter now settled down quietly at York House, Battersea. He appears to have purchased some plantations in Jamaica, and he also possessed property at Portsea. He died on 2 March 1685–6, and was buried in the parish church, where a handsome monument to his memory is still to be seen. The inscription is given (incorrectly) in Seymour's ‘Survey of London,’ 1735, and the monument itself is figured in Smith's ‘Antiquities of London,’ 1791. A bust of Winter, which surmounts the memorial, is the only likeness known. In his commission as agent Winter is styled knight and baronet, and he constantly used the double title during the period of his administration at Madras. He seems, however, to have had no right to the higher title, and it is not claimed in the inscription on his tomb.

He was twice married. The name of his first wife (whom he married in the East Indies) has not been traced; his second wife, whom he married on 20 Dec. 1682, was Emma Withe or Wyeth, widow (Chester, London Marriage Licences, 1491), daughter of Richard Howe of Norfolk. His will (Somerset House, Lloyd, 51) mentions a son Edward and two daughters, married in the East Indies, who apparently predeceased him.

[India Office Records, especially the Court Minutes of the East India Company and the correspondence with Madras; East Indies series in Record Office, vol. vii.; Bruce's Annals of the East India Company, vol. ii.; Diary of William Hedges (Hakluyt Society), vols. ii. and iii.; Wilson's Early Annals of the English in Bengal, i. 37–44; Winter's monument at Battersea and that of his brother in Fulham church.]

W. F.

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  
213 ii 40 Winter, Sir Edward: for 20 Sept. read 20 Dec.