Open main menu

Catherine Winkworth (13 September 1827 – 1 July 1878) translated the German chorale tradition of church hymns for English speakers, for which she is recognized liturgically by Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She also worked for wider educational opportunities for girls, and translated biographies of two founders of religious sisterhoods. When 16, Winkworth appears to have coined a once well-known political pun, peccavi, "I have Sindh", relating to the British colonization of India.

Catherine Winkworth
Born13 September 1827
Died1 July 1878 (1878-08) (aged 50)
Venerated inEvangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church USA
Feast1 July (Lutheran) or
7 August (Episcopal)

Early lifeEdit

Catherine Winkworth was born on 13 September 1827 at 20 Ely Place, Holborn[1] on the edge of the City of London. She was the fourth daughter of Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant. In 1829, her family moved to Manchester, where her father had a silk mill and which city figured in the Industrial Revolution. Winkworth studied under the Rev. William Gaskell, minister of Cross Street Chapel, and with Dr. James Martineau, both of them eminent British Unitarians. Urban historian Harold L. Platt notes that in the Victorian period "The importance of membership in this Unitarian congregation cannot be overstated: as the fountainhead of Manchester Liberalism it exerted tremendous influence on the city and the nation for a generation."[2]

She subsequently moved with the family to Clifton, near Bristol. Her sister Susanna Winkworth (1820–1884) was also a translator, mainly of German devotional works.

Chorale traditionEdit

Catherine Winkworth spent a year in Dresden, during which time she took an interest in German hymnody. Around 1854, she published her book Lyra Germanica, a collection of German hymns which she had chosen and translated into English. A further collection followed in 1858. During 1863, she published The Chorale Book for England, which was coedited by the composers William Sterndale Bennett and Otto Goldschmidt. In 1869 she followed this with Christian Singers of Germany.

According to The Harvard University Hymn Book, Winkworth "did more than any other single individual to make the rich heritage of German hymnody available to the English-speaking world."[3] Four examples of translations by her hand are published in The Church Hymn Book 1872 (Nos 344, 431, 664 and 807).[4]

Women's educationEdit

Winkworth was also involved deeply in promoting women's education, as the secretary of the Clifton Association for Higher Education for Women, and a supporter of the Clifton High School for Girls, where a school house is named after her,[5] and a member of Cheltenham Ladies' College. She was likewise governor of the Red Maids' School in Westbury-on-Trym in the city of Bristol.[6]

Winkworth translated biographies of two founders of sisterhoods for the poor and the sick: Life of Pastor Fliedner, 1861, and Life of Amelia Sieveking, 1863.

Winkworth has been described as "an early feminist".[7]


Punch, 18 May 1844

According to the Encyclopedia of Britain by Bamber Gascoigne (1993),[8] it was Catherine Winkworth who, learning of General Charles James Napier's ruthless and unauthorised, but successful campaign to conquer the Indian province of Sindh, "remarked to her teacher that Napier's despatch to the governor-general of India, after capturing Sindh, should have been Peccavi" (Latin for "I have sinned": a pun on "I have Sindh"). She sent her joke to the new humorous magazine Punch, which printed it on 18 May 1844. She was then sixteen years old.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes this to Winkworth, noting that it was assigned to her in Notes and Queries in May 1954.[9]

The pun has usually been credited to Napier himself.[10] The rumour's persistence over the decades led to investigations in Calcutta archives, as well as comments by William Lee-Warner in 1917 and Lord Zetland, Secretary for India, in 1936.[11]

Hymn booksEdit


Catherine Winkworth died suddenly of heart disease near Geneva on 1 July 1878 and was buried in Monnetier, in Upper Savoy. A monument to her memory was erected in Bristol Cathedral. She is commemorated as a hymn writer with John Mason Neale on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 7 August and on the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 1 July.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Platt, Harold L. (2005). Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago. University of Chicago Press. p. 64. ISBN 9780226670768.
  3. ^ The Harvard University Hymn Book. Harvard University. p. 288.
  4. ^ "Catherine Winkworth - The Center For Church Music, Songs and Hymns". Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  5. ^ Susan Drain: Winkworth, Catherine (1827–1878). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2004). Retrieved 13 September 2010. Subscription required.
  6. ^ " a comprehensive index of hymns and hymnals". Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Winkworth, Catherine". The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English. Cambridge University Press. 1999. p. 671. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  8. ^ "'Peccavi' in Encyclopedia of Britain by Bamber Gascoigne". Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  9. ^ Elizabeth, Knowles, ed. (2014). Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Eighth ed.). Oxford Univ Pr. p. 831. ISBN 9780199668700.
  10. ^ "Sir Charles Napier's sin". Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  11. ^ "'PECCAVI': A Good Story Killed", The Manchester Guardian, 14 February 1936.
  12. ^ Kiefer, James E. "Catherine Winkworth, Hymnwriter and Educator". Retrieved 1 September 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • The Church Hymn Book (ed. Edwin F. Hatfield. New York and Chicago: 1872)

External linksEdit