Recent discoveries about the exact location of the remains of famous English poet, Samuel Coleridge, in the wine cellar of a crypt of St Michael’s church in Highgate Hill in North London, have inspired our archivists to bring to light Plymouth Marjon University’s connections to the poet via his son, the Rev Derwent Coleridge.
The recently discovered coffin of the poet in a wine cellar might seem appropriate to fans of Coleridge who was a notoriously heavy drinker and addicted to opium. It’s more than likely this which led his son, Derwent, to become estranged from his father, bringing him to Plymouth where he became a teacher.
Derwent became involved in the intellectual life of the town, joining The Plymouth Institution, now the Plymouth Athenaeum, as a lecturing member. He married into a Plymouth the family, was ordained by the Bishop of Exeter in 1825 and taught in both Plymouth and Cornish schools.
It was his Plymouth mother in law who lent him the money to attend an interview for St Mark’s College in Chelsea, the London college, along with St John’s College, in Battersea which are the constituent fore-runners of today’s Plymouth Marjon University.
Rev. Derwent Coleridge was appointed as the first Principal of St Mark’s College, which was originally based on the National Society for Promoting Religious Education, in 1841. Its primary purpose was to widen educational horizons for its students. St John’s College was established to provide teacher training to meet the social and economic needs of 19th century industrialisation.
The colleges merged in 1923, establishing a single institution in Chelsea which developed a wider reputation for academic excellence and commitment to teaching. The original Plymouth connection to Rev Derwent Coleridge was revived in 1973 when the College of St Mark & St John moved to the city.
You can find out more about the recent discovery of Samuel Coleridge’s coffin here.