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Writing The West: Literature & Place. An online course

This free online course offers learners the opportunity to explore the work of four writers or groups of writers from the Romantic & Victorian era with strong links to Bristol and the South West. The course covers Bristol’s Romantic poets (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Lovell, Robert Southey), Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, and Thomas Hardy).

To find out more and enrol visit https://www.udemy.com/writing-the-west/

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Final resting place of William Blake honoured at last

The lost and forgotten grave of William Blake is finally to be marked with a gravestone, nearly two centuries after the poet, painter and author of ‘Jerusalem’ was laid to rest – and those inspired by him have the opportunity to own their own fragment of the stone.

Blake has been acclaimed “the greatest artist Britain has ever produced” by the eminent art critic Jonathan Jones. He was voted the top painter in the BBC’s Great Britons poll. He has inspired countless cultural figures from TS Eliot and Vaughan Williams, to Bob Dylan and Bono. His phrases such as “green and pleasant land” and “dark Satanic mills” are part of the national consciousness, along with his iconic images such as The Ancient of Days.

Yet Blake died in obscurity in 1827 and was buried in an unmarked common grave in Bunhill Fields, the cemetery popular with Dissenters just outside the City of London. There is a plain memorial stone in the cemetery that simply records that the artist is buried nearby, but the exact site of Blake’s grave was lost to history until it was re-discovered by two members of the Blake Society in 2006.

Now the anonymous and seemingly unremarkable patch of lawn under which England’s pre-eminent visionary is buried is to be adorned with a stunning slab of carved Portland Stone.

As befits Blake’s profession as an engraver, the stone is to feature a quotation from his work designed and carved by Britain’s foremost stone-cutter Lida Cardozo, whose commissions have included the bronze gates of the British Library.

The ceremony of unveiling will be marked with some personal reflections from eminent and immanent Blakeans who have supported us over the years, including our President Philip Pullman, together with the performance of a specially commissioned choral work by the Australian composer Chris Williams. A little later, towards dusk, there will be a candle ceremony in which everyone present will be invited to place one of the 191 candles around the grave.

Everyone will be very warmly welcomed at the ceremony on August 12th at 3pm in Bunhill Fields cemetery, London EC1Y 1AU.

Click here to view invitation

Alfoxton

Alfoxden - back on the market!!

Well, well, well. Just eight months after it was sold at auction for £1.3 million, Alfoxden is back on the market – at £2 million.

Below is the Christie's press release announcing the sale:

'The 18th-century manor house sits within 51 acres and comprises a total of 17 guest bedrooms, the majority of which enjoy en suite facilities, plus a substantial dining room, commercial kitchens, library, sitting rooms and ancillary areas.

Well-maintained throughout the years [well-maintained??? has it been?????], the four-storey property, which is currently vacant, still boasts many of its impressive original features, including wood panelling, fireplaces and Doric-style columns.

The 51 acres of Alfoxton Park Estate offer lawns, woodland, a deer park, swimming pool and a tennis court, plus additional farm buildings and a cottage on site which could be utilised for further accommodation purposes.

A spokesman for specialist business property adviser Christie & Co said: "Lending itself to a variety of uses, the vastness of the estate and the main property offers an opportunity for a new owner to develop the site to suit their purpose, subject to planning permission.

"Permission was granted in 2011 for change of use from a hotel to a single dwelling, but equally the property is equipped to remain operational as a leisure and hospitality destination."

Having enjoyed a rich history, the estate was previously owned by the St Albyn family for many years, had housed American troops during World War II, and had been the site for Wellington House School.

The house was also home to English romantic poet William Wordsworth during his friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the estate is said to be the inspiration behind the romantic movement in England.

The main library was the setting of the first reading of the famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the longest poem Coleridge wrote which was later adapted into a feature film.

Richard Thomas, business agent at Christie & Co who is handling the sale said: “It is always exciting when such a rare and historic property is introduced to the market and with its idyllic West Somerset location, we anticipate a high level of interest from a variety of parties across the leisure sector.

"Of course, there is also potential to convert the site into a residential dwelling, and as a blank canvas there are endless opportunities for a new owner to embark on.” '

Christie & Co is marketing the freehold interest of Alfoxton Park Estate at a guide price of £2,000,000. 

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A Celebration of Coleridge in Highgate - a short account by Justin Shepherd

Reclaim the Crypt
Saturday 2 June 2018, St Michael’s Church, Highgate

This day was an unusual mixture of Coleridge family reunion, memorial service and celebration. The idea evolved considerably over time and the Friends of Coleridge were delighted to be able to help in this process. Drew Clode, the organiser, deserves warm congratulations for his energy and commitment in bringing this day to successful fruition It is hoped that the event will provide the impetus to help raise the money to preserve the five coffins and enhance the entombment of ST Coleridge, his wife, his daughter, his nephew, who was also his son-in–law, and Herbert Coleridge, his grandson.

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The Rev Kunle Ayodeji, Vicar of St Michael’s,welcomed the many people present. Most of the three front pews on either side of the aisle were filled with Coleridge family members. This was a highly impressive turn out and is clear evidence of great pride in the family name. Richard Coleridge, the poet’s great-great-great-great grandson spoke about the honour and the responsibility of carrying the name. Later in the day Rosemary Coleridge-Middleton, the poet’s great-great-great granddaughter also spoke listing the many connections to the family tree with entertaining enthusiasm, anecdotes, and sense of responsibility for upholding the name. Sir Paul Coleridge, formerly a High Court Judge and distinguished family lawyer, gave an urbane and fluent televised greeting, congratulating the initiative and hoping “Reclaim the Crypt” would be successful.

I encouraged those present to support the Friends of Coleridge and then introduced Rev Dr Malcolm Guite, poet and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge. He gave the first of the two plenary lectures and chose Coleridge: A Life in the Church as his topic. He focused on Coleridge’s lifelong devotion to prayer, and gave a powerful Christian reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He quoted memorably from the Marginalia and Biographia Literaria and read his own poem about visiting the Church and being transfixed by the tombstone’s invocation to “Stop, Christian”.

The short service which followed enhanced the Christian context of Coleridge’s work and featured the impressive choir and organist of St Michael’s, who later performed music specially written for the re-interment as well as other pieces performed at the 1961 ceremony.

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Coleridge’s verse was not omitted. Lance Person gave a dramatic reading of Frost at Midnight and Kubla Khan, while the Friends’ own Ian Enters read from some of the late, less familiar works and briefly related them to those of Keats, Shelley and Hopkins. The Friends’ newly appointed Patron, Prof Seamus Perry once more generously gave of his time and talent. His deft and entertaining plenary on Coleridge in Highgate conveyed a portrait of the poet as talker, drawing upon his own research into contemporary accounts of meetings with Coleridge, including a memorable anecdote about Coleridge exchanging metaphysical pleasantries with local boys, amongst whom he was, apparently, something of a favourite.

The tour of Highgate in the afternoon included a guided visit to both the crypt under St Michael’s, where Coleridge now lies, and the site of his original tomb, which was in ground now occupied by Highgate School buildings. Both were interesting and made concrete the need to improve the current arrangements. The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution put on a special display of Coleridge related material. And in St Michael’s itself there was a temporary small exhibition, including fascinating original letters, and portraits. Boards, beautifully designed by Terence Sackett and written by Ian Enters, described Coleridge’s life in Highgate, the Church, and in Literature.

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The day was constantly interesting and engaging and it was very well organised, including an excellent buffet lunch. All enjoyed the event and the walking through Highgate itself in a magnificently, bright, warm summer’s dayenhanced the experience. There was plenty of warmth left in the sun when several of the Friends met up to discuss the day in The Flask, one of Highgate’s great institutions.

Click here to see the three A1 display boards

Photographs kindly supplied by courtesy of Kim Gray (www.ktbweddingphotography.com)

Tom Poole

New Tom Poole 12-page booklet

I have written and designed a 12-page booklet on Tom Poole for Nether Stowey residents and visitors. I’ve tried to make the information easy to read and not too detailed.

It is a travesty that you can walk through Nether Stowey and not know that Poole ever existed. Yet if you ask Stowey-born residents to name the most important character in the history of the village, many will say Tom Poole, not Coleridge.

Poole was Coleridge’s most faithful and supportive friend. His legacy to the village of Nether Stowey is profound. His commitment to the poor, his energy and vision, the many monuments to his efforts, including the Women’s Friendly Society, the village school, the Savings Bank, and his work for Rickman on the Poor Laws, are testament to his achievements.

It will be available in A5 size in July as a FREE companion to my ‘A Walk round Nether Stowey in 1797 with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ booklet.

Click here to view a PDF

Terence Sackett, Friends of Coleridge