Most people hope that when exploring a wine cellar they stumble upon a lost bottle of DRC. Last week, work on a wine cellar in England yielded a far greater find, the remains of legendary poet (and heavy drinker) Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family.
Taylor’s exact rest place has long been unknown. However, logophiles who wished to pay their respects have long traveled to St. Michael’s Church in north London to pay homage at one of several plaques memorializing the writer. It turns out that those plaques are situated almost directly above Coleridge’s final resting place.
A recent excavation of the St. Michael’s crypt revealed the entrance to a wine vault. (Historians believe that this cellar originally belonged to a demolished mansion, Ashhurst House, but was incorporated into the structure of the crypt when the church was erected in 1831.) Although the entry is bricked up, a ventilation shaft provides a view inside.
Observers can clearly make out five lead coffins. Interred inside are the remains of Coleridge, his wife Sara, his daughter (also) Sara, his son-in-law, and his grandchild.
Coleridge is famed for his literary gifts including “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Christabel,” and “Kubla Khan.” In his lifetime, he was also known for his habit of combating depression with excessive drinking and opioid use. (If you’re confused, go reread “Kubla Khan.”)
“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,” Richard Coleridge, the poet’s great-great-great-grandson, told The Guardian.
Indeed, the space is hard to access and still filled with much of the debris from Ashhurst House. However, plans are underway to restore the space into a more fitting tomb.
The surrounding neighborhood will provide a good starting point for fundraising. Coleridge once lived across the street fro St. Michael’s; that house is now owned by model Kate Moss. The property next-door to Moss was previously owned by the late, great pop star George Michael.
Of note, Coleridge was not originally interred in the wine cellar. He was originally laid to rest in the chapel of Highgate School. In 1961, the coffins were moved to St. Michael’s amidst great hoopla. Oddly, over the course of the 60’s and 70’s memory and record of Coleridge’s resting place disappeared.