Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s remains had been forgotten about until the excavation. Until now, the memorial nave in St. Michael's church in North London had been the sight for many of his admirers to pay their respects, unconscious that his coffin lay beneath in the wine cellar.
Coleridge’s great-great-great-grandson, Richard Coleridge, a Newham police officer said: “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.”
His lead coffin is visible though a ventilation brick in the cellar wall, where he lies with his wife Sara, his daughter, also called Sara, his son-in-law, and his grandson. The only way of seeing his coffin is by going down into the cellar and climbing over debris and rubble.
“From a safety point of view it would be quite impossible to bring members of the public down here,” said the vicar of St Michael’s church, Kunle Ayodeji. “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.”
The church aims to hold a fundraising event in June for the restoration project where there will be recitals and lectures, and several members of Coleridge’s family are expected to attend.
Coleridge, the Romanticist poet of “Kubla Khan” and co-author of Lyrical Ballads
with William Wordsworth, suffered poor physical and mental health towards the end of his life. He became addicted to alcohol and opium, seeking refuge with a doctor who lived opposite the church.
Coleridge died in July 1834, aged 61, and was originally buried at the chapel of Highgate school. He was later moved to St Michael’s when an international fundraising event raised enough money to transfer him due to his vault becoming derelict.
“Poor Coleridge was moved from a tip to a tip,” said Drew Clode, a member of the St Michael’s stewardship committee. “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.”
Coleridge’s coffin is situated almost directly below the memorial plaque in the nave which is inscribed with an epitaph he wrote himself.