Designed by Lewis Vulliamy, St Michael's Church was constructed between 1830-2. A further bay was added in 1879-81 by George Edmund Street with further works in1903 by Temple Moore. It is Grade II* Listed and a hailed example of the Gothic Revival style, its three architects leading figures in the movement. The church stands on the perimeter of the Grade I Listed Highgate Cemetery, a focal point in its raised position above Egyptian Avenue as well as its street frontage to Highgate.
The church famously houses the remains of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A resident of the area, the church door visible from his house across the green, Coleridge was originally buried in the chapel of nearby Highgate school. As the vault became neglected, funds were raised for reburial of his remains in St Michael’s crypt in 1961. Over time, the exact location of the family coffins was forgotten, until they were rediscovered in 2018 behind a brick wall in the 17th century disused wine cellar.
We are working with the church to provide public access to the crypt and Coleridge remains, bringing a new vitality to this disused space and celebrate the history of the church and Coleridge’s life.
Designs facilitate access while minimising harm to the heritage asset, with carefully chosen interventions ensuring the significance of the nineteenth century nave and aisles is unaffected. We are choosing to reclaim the disused cellar spaces to create a sequence of processional and contemplative spaces, allowing visitors to learn more of Coleridge as they descend toward and improved but respectful tomb space. Warm and carefully detailed timber will create reliquary-like spaces along the route, with improved visitor facilities including reading room, exhibition, café and shop.