The lead coffin holding revered 17th century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge has just been rediscovered in an old wine cellar on the grounds of St. Michael’s Church in Highgate, North London.
Many of those who have long loved the words of Coleridge have made pilgrimages to the church of St. Michael’s, braving even the fiercest of weather conditions with raindrops pelting the pavement outside, all so they could gaze in wonder at the plaque that adorns the church, completely oblivious to the fact that the poet’s body was buried deep below the church, as The Guardian reported.
When the rediscovery of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s body was made in St. Michael’s Church, with the coffin just slightly visible when peering through a brick used for ventilation, the coffins of his wife, Sara, his daughter, his grandson, and his son-in-law were also found inside the cellar.
Descendants of the great poet, which include Newham police officer Richard Coleridge, are of the firm opinion that the current resting place of the legend needs some improvement.
“It has been said that you could see it as appropriate, but it is not in a very fitting state for him, and the family would support the plans to improve it.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s remains rediscovered in wine cellar https://t.co/I8gaZUTgNX
— Guardian Books (@GuardianBooks) April 12, 2018
Toward the later years of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s life, the poet lived directly across the street from the Highgate church, as he resided in the home of the young surgeon, James Gillman. Dr. Gillman and Coleridge together believed that Samuel could be cured of his opium habit, and Coleridge died there in 1834 at the age of 61.
While Coleridge was originally buried inside a Highgate school’s chapel, the poor condition of his coffin was discovered in 1961, and his body was transferred to St. Michael’s Church. But as parishioner Drew Clode noted, the poet was sadly just transferred from one unsuitable spot to another.
“Poor Coleridge was moved from a tip to a tip – they put the coffins in a convenient space which was dry and secure, and quite suitable, bricked them up and forgot about them, and never did anything about the rest of the space.”
As time passed and many members of St. Michael’s Church either moved away, left the church, or died, the final resting spot of Samuel Taylor Coleridge was all but forgotten up until the recent rediscovery of the graves of the poet and other members of his family.
However, it was found that Coleridge’s body was placed very closely below the plaque inside the church that reads “Beneath this stone lies the body of Samuel Taylor Coleridge,” a fact that made Clode somewhat jokingly state, “So that was a bit of a clue really.”
Final resting place of Samuel Taylor Coleridge rediscovered in a wine cellar https://t.co/u85BHEHsdA
— Telegraph Books (@TelegraphBooks) April 12, 2018
For those who are understandably keen to get a closer glimpse at Coleridge’s final resting place, the church has made it abundantly clear that the coffins lie at the bottom of a long set of stairs, amidst large piles of bricks, and that for health and safety reasons, it’s simply not feasible to allow visitors into this part of the church.
Vicar Kunle Ayodeji has said that while it would be out of the question to have members of the public getting too close to the coffins, it is the church’s hope that the rubble can eventually be cleared so that the poet’s admirers will be able to read a new inscription dedicated to Coleridge, with the cellar perhaps used for future meetings.
“From a safety point of view it would be quite impossible to bring members of the public down here. But we hope that the whole crypt can be cleared as a space for meetings and other uses, which would also allow access to Coleridge’s cellar. I don’t think we would open up a view of the coffins, but we could place a suitable inscription on the wall.”
With the exciting rediscovery of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s coffin at St. Michael’s Church in Highgate, North London, the parish has planned a special celebration that will be taking place in June, which will feature poetic lectures and recitals, with some of Coleridge’s family members attending.