Winch, Humphrey (DNB00)

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WINCH, Sir HUMPHREY (1555?–1625), judge, born in 1554 or 1555, was the younger son of John Winch (d. 1582) of Northill in Bedfordshire. He entered Lincoln's Inn on 19 July 1573 (Records of Lincoln's Inn, 1896, i. 80), and was called to the bar on 26 July 1581. In 1596 he became a bencher, and in August 1598 acted as autumn reader. In 1593 he represented the borough of Bedford in parliament, retaining his seat until his appointment to the office of chief baron of the exchequer in Ireland on 8 Nov. 1606. To qualify him for this appointment he was in the same year made a serjeant-at-law, and on 10 Nov. he was knighted (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603-10, p. 334), On 8 Dec. 1608 he succeeded Sir James Ley (afterwards first Earl of Marlborough) [q. v.] as lord chief justice of the king's bench in Ireland, with a salary of 300l. a year. While following this office he earned the commendation of Bacon by his 'quickness, industry, and despatch' (Bacon, Works, ed. Spedding, Ellis, and Heath, xiii. 205). On 7 Nov. 1611 be was transferred to England and appointed a judge of the common pleas, a post which ha held till his death. In August 1613 he and three others were nominated on a commission to examine into the popular complaints in Ireland. In 1616 he and Sir Randolph Crewe [q. v.] fell into deserved disgrace for condemning and executing nine women as witches at the summer assizes at Leicester, on the evidence of a boy who pretended that he had been tormented by them. The king, while visiting the town a month later, examined the boy and detected the imposture (Nichols, Progresses of James I, iii. 192; Cal. State Papers, 1610-18, p. 398). In 1616, on the death of Sir Augustine Nicolls [q. v.], he was appointed a referee of the patent for innkeepers' licenses, and on 6 Aug. 1623 he was appointed a member of the council of Wales, the king judging it 'fit that the justices of the four shires should belong thereto' (ib. 1623-5, p. 46). He was seized with apoplexy while in his robes, and died in Chancery Lane on Feb, 1624-5. He was buried in the cloisters of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and a monument was erected to his memory at Everton in Bedfordshire, where his family resided for several generations. By his wife Cicely, daughter of Richard Onslow (1528-1571) [q. v.], he left a son Onslow and a daughter Dorothy, married to George Scott of Hawkhurst in Kent. His male line terminated about 1703 on the death of Sir Humphrey Winch, created a baronet in 1660.

Two legal compilations by Winch were published after his death. The first, which appeared in 1657, was 'The Reports of Sir Humphrey Winch, sometimes one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, containing many choice cases …in the foure last years of King James, faithfully translated out of an exact french Copie,' London, 4to. The original manuscript is in the Cambridge University Library (Cat. Cambr. MSS. iii. 491). The second and more voluminous treatise appeared in 1680. entitled 'Le Beau-Pledeur. A Book of Entries, containing Declarations, Informations, and other Select and Approved Pleadings,' London, 4to.

[Foss's Judges of England, 1857, vi. 201–2; Harl. Soc. Publ. xix. 199; Smyth's Law Officers of Ireland, 1839, pp. 88, 140; Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, i. 95, 216, 243, 265, iii. 266–7; Bacon's Works, ed. Spedding, Ellis, and Heath, xiii. 85, xiv. 187; Blaydes's Geneal. Bedford, 1890, pp. 306, 356, 360, 420, 439; Hist. MSS. Comm. (Rep. on Buccleuch MSS. i. 250); O'Byrne's Representative History, 1844, p. 74; Harl. MS. 6121, f. 65.]

E. I. C.