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Grave of literary giant Samuel Taylor Coleridge found in wine cellar under St Michael’s Church in Highgate

PUBLISHED: 16:50 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 12 April 2018

Drew Clode, Rev Kunle Ayodeji and Richard Coleridge, in the crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.

Drew Clode, Rev Kunle Ayodeji and Richard Coleridge, in the crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.

Archant

The remains of the great Highgate thinker and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge have been rediscovered in a 17th century wine cellar covered in rubble and dust under St Michael’s Church, in Highgate.

Richard Coleridge, Rev Kunle Ayodeji and Drew Clode outside St Michael’s Church Highgate.Richard Coleridge, Rev Kunle Ayodeji and Drew Clode outside St Michael’s Church Highgate.

Now the poet’s four times great-grandson police officer Richard Coleridge along with St Michael’s vicar the Rev. Kunle Ayodeji and other members of the congregation have launched a fundraising bid to restore the 17th century crypt which is the resting place of Samuel Taylor, his wife Sara, daughter Sarah, son-in-law and grandson

Samuel Taylor’s former home in the Grove, opposite the church, often has crowds outside it - its new owner is a famous supermodel and the house where the late popstar George Michael lived is next door.

The church itself has always been on the literary trail as there is a memorial stone to Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the central aisle.

However until now it has been uncertain where the actual coffin of the man attributed with creating words and phrases in the English language such as bisexual, dynamic and soulmate was located.

Drew Clode locates the entrance to the Coleridge Family tomb underneath St Michaels Church Highgate.Drew Clode locates the entrance to the Coleridge Family tomb underneath St Michaels Church Highgate.

It was only when church steward Drew Clode and warden Alan West decided to go down into the rubble-strewn crypt to search. that they stumbled on the lead coffins.

Mr Clode explains: “Memories dimmed and there was uncertainty about where the entombment occurred. Some thought it was under the font inside the church.

“We looked around the rubble in a huge area and it was only using the stone above in the aisle as a clue that we finally picked our way through and found what we were looking for.”

Right at the back of the crypt in what was once the wine cellar of an original 1696 house the church was built on, he found five coffins.

The crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.The crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.

“They were covered in dust and barely distinguishable from the rubble. They were barely visible through a grille of an air vent,” he said.

Mr Clode said: “I have always been a fan of Coleridge and neither the wine cellar, the tomb-area itself not the crypt are fit for the remains of this great poet and his family.”

Mr Coleridge, who lives in Redbridge, said: “I grew up knowing Samuel Taylor was a remarkable man and this is not really a fitting resting place for him. We want to restore it as a tribute to him.”

At an event on June 2, the fundraising drive will be launched on Coleridge Day to raise £500,000 towards the restoration of the Coleridge graves and also a refurbishment of the whole crypt area into a community space.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795

Mr Ayodeji said: “We want to renovate the whole area both as a tribute to Coleridge but also as a space to benefit the whole community. We hope it could become a space for meetings and for young people and other purposes.

He will conduct the service on June 2.

Members of the Coleridge family will recite the words and poems of Samuel Taylor and Highgate School choir will perform.

The church plans to clear and restore the crypt – which is still half full of rubble from the demolished mansion, Ashhurst House, that preceded the church – and allow access to the grave of one of the most renowned English poets, dubbed the Highgate scribe.

Through a tiny hole in an airbrick, the Coleridge family tomb can just be seen, in the crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.Through a tiny hole in an airbrick, the Coleridge family tomb can just be seen, in the crypt underneath St Michael’s Church Highgate.

For more information and to book tickets for Coleridge Day on June 2 here

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