On this day 140 years ago in Penzance my great-grandfather was born. This makes me an eighth Cornish, which is about as exotic as I get as things currently stand.
Coleridge’s father was a music professor and organist from a line of esteemed musicians and his mother was originally a Dingley, a family with many east Cornish connections, who ran hotels and banks. For a time they lived in a hotel which can still be visited, although it is no longer in the family.
After studying at Kelly College in Tavistock in the late nineteenth century and becoming a trainee surveyor in Penzance, Coleridge went on to become a town planner and engineer, based mainly in Newton Abbot in Devon. He was an older father, having been widowed once and remarrying; he met his second wife, Katie Stone, in an orchestra he was conducting. She was a violinist and also from a talented musical family from Dorset including a number of church organists. They married in Greenwich while Coleridge was working for a short time in Hanwell in London. My grandpa was born in 1924, and my great-uncle, now nearly ninety, was born when Coleridge was already fifty. As a Victorian father he wasn’t afraid to instill discipline through beatings, but the impression we get of him now is a man who was very much respected and admired. He paid close attention to detail and could even draw a straight line without a ruler.
I am still researching the work Coleridge did as a town planner in Newton Abbot for many years, but I know that he was instrumental in planning the war memorial there and insisting an old oak tree was removed, which was shown to be diseased when it was done. This was the unveiling in 1922:
Coleridge did not live to see his son’s wedding, as he died of Weil’s disease in 1947, contracted when he was inspecting sewers as part of his work. He did meet his future daughter-in-law though, my granny, who took this photograph of him:
I would hope that Coleridge’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren would have made him proud in our various endeavours. Some of us are musical. Some have an aptitude for numbers. Some are happy to challenge things and come up with original solutions. Some are strict. We are more widely spread but we have this united Cornish heritage we can be proud of.
Happy 140th, great-grandpa!