WINTRINGHAM, William (d.c.1391), of Southwark, Surr.
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Commr. to recruit and transport carpenters to work at Windsor castle July 1362, Hertford castle Mar. 1377; repair the Thames bank, Southwark Oct. 1370.
Master and surveyor of the works to John of Gaunt by Oct. 1374-aft. 18 Dec. 1382.1
Wintringham was not only a carpenter but a timber merchant and large-scale building contractor. Most of his profits were used to improve and expand his business, largely through a series of shrewd investments in land for development within the expanding borough of Southwark. In September 1369, for example, John, Lord Northwood, released to him his right to a plot of land in St. Olave’s parish; and in the following year he began a series of mutually advantageous transactions with the wealthy and influential prior of Lewes, Sussex. Having renounced his title to a second piece of land lying between that granted to him by Northwood and the prior’s hostel in Southwark, he obtained a 60-year lease of the property in April 1371 and was able to continue with the enclosures and building works which he had already begun there. In December 1373, Wintringham contracted to erect 11 shops and two large stables next to the hostel in return for a cash payment of £120 and a life tenancy of the premises once they had been completed. He and the prior offered mutual sureties of £100 as an earnest of their good intentions; and there can be no doubt of Wintringham’s ability to raise such a large sum had he ever been required to do so. Indeed, by Easter 1377 he was in a position to buy a messuage and 18 shops with their appurtenances, also in St. Olave’s parish, from Christopher Shokkesburgh and his wife, Agnes, thus placing himself among the richest lay property owners in that part of the borough.2
Wintringham was quite evidently one of the leading master carpenters of his day. He provided timber and labour for repairs to the bishop of Winchester’s hostel in Southwark during the early 1370s; and on 12 Mar. 1373, he was granted an annuity of £20 by John of Gaunt. This generous award, made in return for ‘le bon et greable service que nostre bien ame William Wintringham nostre carpenter nous ad fait et ferra en temps avenir’, was charged upon the revenues of the manor of Soham, Cambridgeshire, and, according to the indentures drawn up on the following day, was to be supplemented by board wages of ten marks a year (or other suitable recompense) should Wintringham be required to undertake any work in wartime. The conditions of his employment were in many ways similar to those binding the esquires in Gaunt’s retinue—a fact which serves to emphasize the high value placed upon his expertise as a craftsman. Payments of his fee soon fell into arrears, since on 21 June 1373 the duke’s receiver in Cambridgeshire received a sharp reminder to deliver the £10 already outstanding. It may well be that Wintringham had by then been appointed master and surveyor of all Gaunt’s works in England: he was certainly in office by October of the following year, at which time the duchy steward of Pevensey was being ordered to provide him with timber from the Hastings area.3
Wintringham was clearly preoccupied by the heavy responsibilities of such an important post, and played little part in local affairs at this time. His return to the second Parliament of 1377 probably owed more to his connexion with Gaunt than anything else, since he otherwise maintained no continuous involvement in the affairs of the borough. He witnessed a Southwark deed in February 1378, but from the spring of 1380 until December 1382, and probably later, he was generally in residence at Hertford castle, supervising the construction of the chapel and houses which he had indented to build there for his patron. The latter undertook to pay him £440—spread over three annual instalments—and although Wintringham was to provide all the necessary labour, he none the less stood to do well out of the transaction.4 However, he was busy again in Southwark by January 1388, at which time he became involved in work on London Bridge. Over the next three years the Bridge masters recei