* 13th June: Over 200 visitors came to St Michael’s Church in Highgate last Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family – Sarah his wife; Sara his daughter; his son in law Henry, and grandson Herbert. The vault where he lies was opened as part of Highgate Village’s Fair on the Square celebration. They were led to the wine cellar where the family are interred beneath the church in groups of between 12 and 15 after hearing a brief introduction from The Coleridge Trust secretary Drew Clode. They were also able to read some exhibition boards prepared for the Trust by Terry Sackett and Ian Enters from the Friends of Coleridge. Once there they were given further information about the cellar from TCT chair Alan West. Actor Kenneth Michaels recited the poet’s famous self-written obituary – Stop Christian passer by… and while they were leaving the cellar they listened to a recording of a verse from Coleridge’s poem The Kiss set to music by St Michael’s director of music Paul Dean. One American visitor described the experience of hearing Coleridge’s obituary not two yards from the poet’s resting place as `spine-tingling’. All who were asked said they’d thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the recitals. Pamphlets detailing the poet’s arrival in Highgate in 1816; his life there; the works he undertook and his fight against laudanum addiction were freely available and taken away. Others described his move with his benefactors the Gillman family to number 3 the Grove where he was to die in July 1834. Buried originally in the village cemetery, he and his family were re-interred in St Michael’s church vault in June 1961. There are no plans to open the vault to the public in the near future, though it is hoped to be able to repeat the opening at next year’s fair.
* 6th June: THE GATES TO ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH CRYPT in Highgate North London will be flung open on Saturday June 11th so that, for the first time members of the public can visit its hidden 17th Century wine cellar where the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lies buried. The event, to coincide with the village’s famous Fair in the Square, will be to help draw attention to the sorry state in which the coffins of the author of The Ancient Mariner and four members of his family lie. Viewing commences at noon and will continue until 4pm.
* TWO ITEMS FROM the Trust figure prominently in the Friends of Coleridge (https://www.friendsofcoleridge.com/) publications recently. In their main twice-yearly bulletin (Winter 2021) there is a long article from Trust secretary Drew Clode briefly details STC’s life and death in Highgate, Then gives an almost blow-by-blow account of the process whereby the coffins of the Coleridge family were `rediscovered’ in the famous wine cellar beneath the village parish church of St Michael’s Church. This was accomplished by the author and church official Alan West in February 2018. From there on the history of the Trust developed.
* LAST MONTH SAW the Trust exhibiting at the local Highgate Village forum held annually at, and organised by, Lauderdale House. About 20 local charities and volunteers groups set up their stalls packed with information about their particular enterprises to a wide variety of the public who came to learn. Earlier representatives of the charities had an information-swap session where they kept each other up to date with what was happening in their organisation and in the wider community. TCT was represented by chair Alan West and trustee Malcolm Macgregor and the stall, with its model of the church and crypt drew a lot of attention. Boards describing the poet’s life in Highgate, kindly designed and produced by the Friends, surrounded our table and were widely appreciated.
* A MEETING BETWEEN trustees and members of the Highgate Cemetery looked speculatively at ways in which TCT and Cemetery might work together in the future. The original linkage of the two sites (the western cemetery once formed the grounds of the rather stately home, Ashhurst House, that stood on the site pre-St Michael’s Church) was sealed off over a century ago. Before that St Michael’s had served as the chapel where funeral services were held prior to burial.
* THE TRUST IS planning a programme of works and visits which hopefully will take place at the beginning and during the Highgate Village Festival which kicks off with the renowned Fair in the Square on June 11th this year.
* A PERMANENT MEMORIAL to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family, who are buried in the cellar below St Michael’s Church Highgate in North London, is being planned to sit in the nave. The tribute will include a full scale model of the poet as well as information boards and leaflets describing and explaining his life and times in Highgate. TCT Chair Alan West said: “The wonderful light shown by this poet and his family has been hidden under a bushel for far too long both in the church and the village. We hope this modest display will complement the magnificent tributes to him on the walls and on the famous memorial stone bearing the poet’s self-epitaph in the main aisle.”