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Coleridge-Taylor’s early life

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Fetter Lane   Portrait of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor by Walter Wallis
Fetter Lane: a stone's throw from Coleridge-Taylor's birthplace
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  NPG 5724
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
by Walter Wallis (1881, oil on canvas)
Copyright © National Portrait Gallery
     
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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, boy musician   Portrait of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, boy musician
Copyright © The Royal College of Music, London

  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Copyright © The Royal College of Music, London

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born on 15 August 1875 at 15 Theobalds Road, Holborn, London – just round the corner from Fetter Lane, a spot which Dickens described as the “dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for tom cats”. His parents were registered as Daniel Hugh Taylor, surgeon, and Alice Taylor, 'formerly Holmans'. It seems likely that he was named after the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Dr Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor (c.1848-1904) returned to his native Sierra Leone after studying at Taunton and King's College, London - but contrary to the claim in Coleridge-Taylor's birth certificate, there is no record of his father's marriage to Alice.

The young Coleridge-Taylor might never have known his father but he was hardly neglected. Alice Martin, the mother who brought him up in Croydon, married George Evans (1837-c.1908), a railway storeman, with whom he seems to have been on good terms. He received violin lessons from Joseph Beckwith, a local orchestral musician, and he sang from the age of 10 in the choir at St George's Presbyterian Church, Croydon, and the parish church of St Mary Magdalene, Addiscombe.

He was very well aware of the difficulties he faced because of the colour of his skin: his nickname at school, for instance, was 'coaley'. But he was a keen student and in 1890 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, originally as a student of the violin, then graduating to studying composition with the composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. At a stroke he had levitated into the most influential musical environment within reach, and acquired patrons who could help make his career.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

Early days at the RCM Next - 'Early days at the RCM'

Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Dumas Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor John Archer
 
 
 
Discover more:
Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Background and early life
Early days at the RCM
Early days at the RCM
First successes.... and Hiawatha
First successes... and Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Pan Africanism, race and the USA
Pan-Africanism, race and the USA
The music ends
The music ends
John Archer
John Archer
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