- Singing the Faith: 265
- Henry Hart Milman
- “Winchester New” adapted from a chorale in Musikalisches Hand-Buch (1690) arr William Henry Havergal. Often attributed to Georg Wittwe (see More information)
- 88.88. Long Metre
The name of Georg Wittwe comes up frequently in connection with the tune Winchester New but no-one of that name existed. The tune that nowadays takes this name was first published in Hamburg in 1690 – perhaps in Musicalisch Handbuch der geistlichen Melodien à Cant. et Bass, published by Margarethe Rebenlein.
The Rebenlein family were printers to the Hamburg city council. Georg Rebenlein (b. 1634) became the main printer following his father Jakob’s death in 1662. Georg’s younger brother, also Jakob, died in 1678 and Georg’s wife Margarethe (née Trützen) evidently came into the business, as when Georg died in 1684 his widow carried on with his publications until 1692 using the titles ‘Georg Rebenleins Wittwe’ (Georg Rebenlein’s widow) or ‘Georg Rebenleins Erben’ (Georg Rebenlein’s heirs), as was common at the time.
No one knows, though, who actually wrote the tune. Even the name of the book in which the original version of Winchester New can be found varies considerably between different sources, but all agree that its place and date of publication were Hamburg, 1690.
The tune was set to Georg Neumark’s ‘Wer nun den lieben Gott läßt walten’, a hymn to which Neumark wrote a magnificent tune which is still used to this day (including in the 2002 German Methodist hymn book) – although compilers over the years, including Rebenlein in 1690 and Hymns and Psalms in 1982, have had other ideas!
John Wesley learnt the Rebenlein tune from the Moravians and shortened it to Charles Wesley’s favourite ‘six lines of eights’ metre, publishing it in the oddly-named ‘A Collection of Tunes, Set to Music, As they are commonly SUNG at the FOUNDERY’ (known as the Foundery Collection, 1742).
George Whitefield (Divine Musical Miscellany, 1754) was the first to give the tune the name Winchester New when he changed it into triple time. This version also appeared in Wesley’s Sacred Harmony.
William Henry Havergal (Old Church Psalmody, 1847) revised it to the version we are familiar with.