Saturday, April 28, 2012 Parents and Early Years of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, From Biography by Jeffrey Green

[African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. 1; Danse Nègre From African Suite (6:14); Petite Suite de Concert (13:36); Chicago Sinfonietta; Paul Freeman, Conductor; Cedille 90000 055 (2000)]

The English historian Jeffrey Green is author of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life, published by Pickering & Chatto Publishers (2011). It has been favorably reviewed by Professor Dominique-René de Lerma: “This biography corrects errors of the past and reveals that which had been hidden. One comes away from this study with a new sense of the composer, his colleagues and supporters, and the social and political environment in which he lived.”

Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor was raised in Freetown, in the British colony of Sierra Leone, Jeffrey Green tells us on Page 6 of his biography. He writes: “Daniel Taylor attended the Church Missionary Society's grammar school.” The author explains: “...its curriculum included Greek and Latin.” He then tells us: “Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor was there for four years. His family then sent him to England.”

He began studies in 1870 at Wesley College in Taunton, in the West of England, the author says. Subsequently, “.....Taylor went to study medicine at King's College Hospital, London. In November 1874, aged twenty-five, he qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS). Sometime during his years in London he met Alice, the woman who was to be the composer's mother.

"Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, MRCS took no part in his child's upbringing. Nothing survives on Taylor's time at King's College but documents at the Royal College of Surgeons show he registered in October 1871 after an examination in June.” The first biography of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor appeared in 1915. Green continues: “That biography states Dr. Taylor joined a medical practice in Croydon, taking on the sole running of it and suffering financial distress as patients did not trust a black doctor working without white supervision. So Taylor returned to Africa, leaving his wife and son behind.” The author says “...Daniel Taylor was back in Freetown before Alice's body started to swell with their child.”

Colonial records for the Gambia are cited by the author as evidence that Dr. Taylor served as "deputy coroner" starting in 1891, and as coroner from 1896. A fee would have been paid him for each autopsy.  Green writes Dr. Taylor died on August 25, 1904 at 57.  A gravestone was erected by his daughter, the author writes.  She is subsequently named as Rachel Taylor.

Jeffrey Green writes that Coleridge-Taylor's maternal grandfather was Benjamin Holmans, a blacksmith: “Holmans's relationship with a younger woman had led to the birth of their daughter on 17 September 1856 at 43 Castle Place, Dover (where the 1851 census placed the Holmans). When Emily Ann Martin registered the birth of her baby, Alice Hare, no father's name was recorded. Alice Hare Martin was to be the composer's mother. In the census of 1871 she was listed in the Holmans household at 15 Theobalds Road...”

Jeffrey Green writes of the birth of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor on August 15, 1875, which was registered on September 27, 1875: “Alice makes her third appearance in the documents of Victorian England when she registered the birth of her black baby in 1875. 'Samuel Coleridge Taylor [sic]' had been born at 15 Theobalds Road on 15 August 1875. Alice's nineteenth birthday was a few weeks later. Soon they moved 10 miles (16 km) south to Croydon. There the composer lived with his grandfather and mother into the 1890s.” Coleridge-Taylor was raised at 67 Waddon New Road, Croydon. The author says the block faced railroad tracks busy with coal-powered steam engines, and was downwind of a slaughter house.

Young Samuel was raised by his English mother and grandparents, the author tells us. On P. 12 he writes: “Benjamin Holmans played the violin and gave Coleridge-Taylor his first music lessons, the composer told the Musical Times in 1909.  Coleridge-Taylor's first biographer wrote that Holmans 'taught him the various elementary positions on the instrument', these lessons being 'of the most rudimentary type'.”

Census records confirm the makeup of the household of young Samuel, known to his family as Coleridge: “Benjamin Holmans provided the home for his wife, his daughter Alice and 'Coleridge Taylor': all listed at 67 Waddon New Road in the 1881 census.” Later on the same page we read: “...there was financial stability in the household as Coleridge - never called Samuel within the family - grew up.” The author continues: “This financial security plus the warmth and affection provided by his elders were important elements in the formation of Coleridge-Taylor's character. “So too was their house at 67 Waddon New Road for it sheltered the boy until the 1890s when he was established at the Royal College of Music.”

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,]

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