William Wynter

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William Wynter
Brecknock, Powys, Wales
Died20 February 1589
London, England
Lydney Church
Lydney, Gloucestershire
AllegianceFlag Kingdom of England.gif
Kingdom of England
Service/branchTudor Ensign 1485-1603.svg
Navy Royal
Years of service1544-1589
Commands heldHMS Minion
Keeper of the Kings Storehouses
Channel Squadron
Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy
Master of Naval Ordnance
North Sea Squadron
Irish Squadron
Battles/warsSiege of Leith
Siege of Smerwick
Battle of Gravelines
Spanish Armada

Admiral Sir William Wynter or Winter (c.1521 – 20 February 1589) was English Naval Commander, Administrator and MP during the Tudor Period and a Chief Officer of the Admiralty as member of the Council of the Marine later called the Navy Board. He was knighted personally by Queen Elizabeth I for services to the Navy and the only officer to receive that honour.[1]

Naval Career

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. From 1544 until 1545 he was appointed Keeper of the Kings Storehouses for both Deptford Dockyard and Erith Dockyard's In 1545 appointed Vice-Admiral in the Channel commanding the Channel Squadron in the fleet in the English Channel. He then served under Lord Lisle; in the expedition to Scotland, under the protector Somerset in 1547; and 'the journeys to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey' in 1549. On 8 July 1549 he was appointed Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy in succession to Benjamin Gonson; and in August 1550 he superintended the removal of the ships from Portsmouth to Gillingham. In 1552 he commanded HMS Minion when she captured a French ship, as a reward for which 1001, was given to be divided among her crew of three hundred men. In 1553 he voyaged in the Levant. On 2 November 1557 he was appointed Master of Naval Ordnance, 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 when it burnt Conquêt. In 1559 he commanded the a Navy Royal's North Sea Squadron sent to the Forth with orders to watch for the French squadron and prevent any Frenchmen being landed in Scotland. In 1560 appointed Admiral of the Irish Sea where he commanded the Irish Squadron. He was present at the Battle of Gravelines.[2]

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 English fleet off Havre. On 12 August 1573 he was knighted. On 6 November 1580 appointed for the second time to the command of the Irish Squadron for the Siege of 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.[3]

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 October 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.[4]

Political Career

William Wynter served as member of parliament for Portsmouth in 1559 and 1563 and Clitheroe in 1572. In 1580 appointed Steward and Receiver, Duchy of Lancaster lands in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. In 1586 he returned to the House of Commons as MP for Gloucestershire.[5]

Family and Marriage

William Wynter was from an old Brecknock family, he was the elder son of John Wynter (d. 1646), merchant and sea-captain of Bristol, and (1645-6) the first Treasurer of Marine Causes. 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]

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.


# Offices Held Term Ref
1. Keeper of the Kings Storehouses 1544-1545
2. Vice-Admiral in the Channel 1545–1547
3. Surveyor and Rigger of the Navy 1549–1589
4. Captain HMS Minion 1552–1553
5. Master of Naval Ordnance 1557–1589
6. Vice-Admiral in the North Sea 1559–1560
8. Member of Parliament for Portsmouth 1559
9. Member of Parliament for Portsmouth 1560
10. Admiral of the Irish Sea 1560
11. Member of Parliament for Portsmouth 1563
12. Member of Parliament for Clitheroe 1572
13. Knighted 1573
14. Admiral of the Irish Sea 1580
15. Steward and Receiver, Duchy of Lancaster 1580-1586
16. Member of Parliament for Portsmouth 1586


  1. Hasler, P. W.; P, M. R. (1964–2019). "WYNTER, William (c.1528-89), of Deptford, Kent and Lydney, Glos: History of Parliament Online". www.histparl.ac.uk. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  2. The History of Parliament Trust
  3. The History of Parliament Trust
  4. The History of Parliament Trust
  5. The History of Parliament Trust


  1. The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981, Boydell and Brewer. ISBN: 9780118875011.