Winter, Samuel (1603–66), Independent minister and provost of TCD, was born in the parish of Hampton-in-Arden, Warwickshire, England, son of Christopher Winter, yeoman. He was educated at the free school in Coventry before proceeding to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA (1632). In preparation for his clerical career, he lived for a time under the guidance of John Cotton at Boston, Lincolnshire. He became a minister at Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, and then lectured at York, before holding livings at St Michael Ousebridge (1641–3) and at Cottingham (from 1643), both in Yorkshire. Strongly puritan and a talented preacher, Winter organised his church on congregational lines and supported parliament against the king during the English civil wars of the 1640s. This was unsurprising, as he had been prosecuted for deviations from anglican orthodoxy under the old regime. Early in his career he married Anne Beeston, who died between 1642 and 1645, but not before bearing him five sons. Between 1645 and 1650 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Christopher Weaver.
In January 1651 he went to Ireland as chaplain to the four commissioners sent by the English parliament to govern Ireland, one of whom was his brother-in-law John Weaver (d. 1685), who had probably arranged his appointment as chaplain. He travelled throughout Ireland with them, preaching publicly every day. The commissioners were so impressed that they recommended that he remain in Ireland to continue his ministry. He settled in Dublin, and by October 1651 had established a congregation at St Nicholas's church, where he instituted a weekly lecture. Run on Independent lines, this congregation was autonomous and governed by its members collectively. Before being admitted, potential members had to prove that they were devout Christians.
Provost of TCD In September 1651 he appears to have been made provost of TCD, although this appointment was not formally ratified till September 1652. As provost he was paid £100, which supplemented his annual salary of £200 as a state preacher. On 18 November 1651 the college granted him a BD, and on 17 August 1654 a DD. He threw himself into the task of reviving Trinity's fortunes, eleven years of warfare having deprived the college of almost all its revenues, and travelled as far afield as Donegal, Kerry, Cavan, and Tyrone to inspect college property on tours that could last months. Despite these efforts, Trinity remained dependent on state subsidies and he was obliged to lend money to the college. A lack of alternatives forced him to retain the existing fellows, most of whom harboured royalist and episcopalian sentiments. The uneasy situation came to a head in early 1655, when a number of fellows openly and repeatedly defied Winter's authority, resulting in the dismissal of his chief critic, Joseph Travers (d. 1665). Soon afterwards he installed five Independents as fellows and thereafter ensured that only his supporters were elected fellows. From 1655 he was more securely in control of Trinity, although he could not displace all his enemies.
He attempted to broaden the range of studies at Trinity – previously dominated by the study of theology and the Bible – by instituting professorships in law, physic, oratory, and mathematics, and presided over the establishment of a medical faculty in 1654. Some of the fellows had interests outside theology, which he encouraged. That said, he regarded Trinity's main purpose as the training of Independent ministers, and prioritised religious studies, stipulating that students had to prove their aptitude in Greek and Hebrew before they could receive a degree. He himself lectured in divinity. However, the established protestant community in Ireland (the ‘Old Protestants’) refused to send their sons to Trinity for much of his tenure, put off by what they regarded as the radical religious views of Winter and many of his academic staff. Only from 1657 did student admissions began to rise from a low level. Those students that did attend appear to have been rowdy, forcing Winter to institute harsh disciplinary procedures. He also attempted to revive the teaching of Irish in Trinity and to learn the language, but with little success in either instance. His interest in Irish was stimulated by his desire to evangelise the native population: he regularly preached at Maynooth, where he attracted large crowds of local Irish, and also preached during his tours of the country on behalf of the college.
Puritan mystic and traditionalist In both his lectures and his sermons, he promoted the controversial view that Christians could be infused by the power of the Holy Spirit through the power of prayer, and that the Holy Spirit enacted miracles in the world. He claimed to have communicated with the spiritual world and to have heard, while praying as a youth, a voice directing him to become a preacher. Conventional protestant theology held that such divine interventions had ended with the biblical era, and Winter's views were typically the preserve of the more fundamentalist protestant sects. His wife appears to have tried to dissuade him from publicising his mystical experiences, and more conservative protestants denied their validity. However, a belief in miracles and spiritual communion with the Holy Spirit did enter the mainstream of Irish puritanism during the 1650s, and he gained a reputation as a holy man and potential miracle-worker.
Unlike the quakers and the most radical puritans, Winter did not believe that his direct relationship with the higher powers liberated him from adhering to long-standing Christian conventions. Rather idiosyncratically, he combined puritan mysticism and ecclesiological Independency with a markedly conservative veneration of traditional church practices. In particular he upheld infant baptism and the ordination of clergy, which brought him into conflict with the baptists. During his tours of Trinity's property he visited parts of the country that were bereft of any type of clergy, and took the opportunity to perform large numbers of marriages and baptisms. His use of godparents at christenings and his churching of new mothers was decidedly unpuritan and was not sanctioned by the Westminster confession. His congregation at St Nicholas's church was the more moderate of the two Independent churches established in Dublin at this time, and attracted the well-to-do citizens of Dublin and civilian members of the government. The other congregation, led by John Rogers, was composed mainly of soldiers, who tended to be more radical; Winter condemned Rogers for admitting baptists into his church and for attempting to encourage greater female participation in the running of his congregation. His religious views also caused tension within his marriage, which does not appear to have been entirely harmonious: his wife sympathised with the baptists and considered joining their confession.
Opponent of the Baptists, 1652–5 As well as his role as academic and minister, he was drawn into the high politics of the period. By 1652 he had emerged as the government's unofficial chief ecclesiastical adviser, being provided with a prestigious preaching position at Christ Church, the former cathedral, and made chairman of a committee established to vet ministers who would be licensed to preach and receive a state salary. However, his ascendancy was quickly undermined; as the 1650s progressed, many of the New Protestants who arrived in Ireland as part of the Cromwellian conquest were gripped by heightened millenarian expectations and embraced extreme and potentially politically subversive religious views. In particular the baptists secured many converts within the sizeable and restless military establishment, and the spread of their ideas and influence alarmed the more moderate puritans. Resenting their exclusion from power and the power of the army, the Independents called for the restoration of civil government in Ireland. As a fierce critic of the baptists and brother-in-law to Weaver, the main spokesman of the Independents, Winter's sympathies were not in doubt. He tried to use his position as chair of the licensing committee to prevent baptists and other radicals from enjoying government patronage, but found himself marginalised as the baptists came to exert a predominant influence over government policy following the appointment of Charles Fleetwood (qv) as governor of Ireland (autumn 1652). In 1653 the baptist army officers forced Weaver's resignation as commissioner.
Undaunted, and having succeeded his brother-in-law as leader of the Independents, Winter used his pulpit in Christ Church to denounce the baptists and direct thinly veiled criticisms at Fleetwood, who was often in attendance, for his indulgence of them. This culminated in Fleetwood's barring him from preaching at Christ Church in 1654 in favour of a baptist minister, Thomas Patient (qv). However, events in England were turning in Winter's favour: Oliver Cromwell (qv) regarded the baptists as a threat to his rule and was annoyed at Fleetwood's unwillingness to curb their power in Ireland. In the spring of 1654 Cromwell sent his son Henry Cromwell (qv) to Ireland to report on affairs there. On Henry's arrival in Dublin (March), Winter entertained him generously at Trinity and doubtless briefed against Fleetwood. After Henry's return to England, an emboldened Winter came out openly against Fleetwood by inviting Henry to act as chancellor of Trinity, delivering a stinging public rebuke to the lord deputy in the process. He later circulated petitions calling for Fleetwood's removal as lord deputy. In early 1655 he established the Dublin and Leinster Association, composed of Independent congregations united in their opposition to the radical sects. This association was heavily influenced by similar organisations established in England by Richard Baxter (with whom Winter corresponded), and wished to unite all moderate puritans under its umbrella. Its establishment reflected the dissatisfaction of Winter and his colleagues with the composition of the civil list, which by tolerating a wide diversity of religious opinion had thrown Irish protestantism into confusion. In the event this initiative quickly lapsed, rendered unnecessary by Fleetwood's recall to England in summer 1655 and replacement as effective governor of Ireland by Henry Cromwell.
Political intrigue: 1655–9 In 1655–7 the baptists made a sustained effort to oust Henry Cromwell, obliging him to cling fast to Winter and his adherents. As part of this struggle Winter published (1656) a series of sermons he had given at Christ Church, upholding the doctrine of infant baptism. However, once Henry had finally secured his position as governor of Ireland by the close of 1657, he sought to broaden his government's support base in Ireland. In particular, this meant reconciling the Old Protestants to the government, in pursuit of which goal Henry began to consider watered-down versions of presbyterianism and a uniform national church. Winter's opposition to such aims, and his continued closeness to Weaver, a critic of the protectorate, made him increasingly suspect in Cromwell's eyes. Matters came to a head in May 1658 at a special convention of ministers in Dublin, where Winter resisted proposals to reintroduce the tithe to Ireland – he believed it would give ungodly lay landowners too much control over the clergy – but was resoundingly defeated. Henry excluded Winter from power and encouraged opposition to him within Trinity, where he was criticised by the more conservative fellows for neglecting learning in favour of piety. For his part, Winter associated openly with political opponents of the Cromwell dynasty. Unsurprisingly, by early 1659 he and his congregation had been ejected from St Nicholas's church and were reduced to petitioning for a place to worship.
A dejected Winter considered quitting Ireland, but a visit to England in summer 1658 provided some encouragement. There, the still-powerful English Independents took up his criticisms of Henry Cromwell's recent religious initiatives, which they characterised with some success as a form of creeping episcopalianism. Moreover, Oliver Cromwell was clearly ailing, and the English Independents expected the conservative drift of the government to be reversed after his death. In February 1659 Winter highlighted both his estrangement from the government and the polarisation of Irish protestantism by establishing a new association of Independent churches in Leinster as a rival to Henry Cromwell's planned presbyterian settlement. The association's terms of agreement declared its intent to unite puritan protestantism by encompassing baptists (with whom Winter was now making common cause), Independents, and presbyterians within its remit, and envisaged a system of regular meetings of ministers and elders to resolve disputes. It differed sharply from Henry Cromwell's proposed universalist and lay-dominated state church in declaring its commitment to voluntary membership by a godly elite. Members of the associated churches would be authorised to police public morals and to ordain ministers.
The restoration and after In 1659 the radicals did indeed take power in England and Ireland, and Winter came back into official favour after Henry Cromwell's resignation as lord lieutenant. However, the new government preferred the baptists and would undoubtedly have clashed with Winter, had not the collapse of the republican position in England in late 1659 and early 1660 rendered such issues moot. On 29 March 1660 the general convention of Ireland summarily dismissed Winter as provost of Trinity. He reestablished his congregation at New Row in Dublin but the next year was forced by government harassment to return to England, where he was among the many puritan ministers banned from preaching by the act of uniformity (1662). During the last years of his life he divided his time between friends and relatives at Winchester, Coventry, Hertfordshire, and Rutland. He died 24 December 1666 and was buried at South Luffenham, Rutland. He left to his sons considerable lands, including extensive properties in King's Co., Queen's Co., and Co. Meath, acquired during the 1650s. Trinity never repaid him the apparently large sums of money that he had lent to it during his time as provost, although his heir was partially reimbursed after his death. His brother-in-law published a biography of him in 1671.