Sunday, June 17, 2012 'From Waddon to Washington DC: Croydon boy’s musical life' by Jeffrey Green

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; “Croydon’s Public Hall on George Street, as it was just over a century ago, when Coleridge-Taylor often conducted music at the venue. Picture from Jeffrey Green’s collection”]

Posted on June 17, 2012

Ahead of centenary concerts to celebrate the life of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, his biographer, JEFFREY GREEN, details the composer’s life in Croydon

Theobalds Road was widened by demolishing the houses and shops on the southern side in the mid-1870s, and amongst those forced to relocate was the family of Benjamin Holmans.

Born in coastal Kent, the Holmans family had moved to Holborn’s Theobalds Road in the late 1850s. Holmans was a farrier or blacksmith, a useful occupation in a horse economy (steam trains and ships took goods and people great distances, but local transport was all horse-drawn).

With the demolition of Theobalds Road, the Holmans relocated to Croydon – Benjamin and his wife Sarah, the farrier’s daughter Alice, and Alice’s baby Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The boy’s father, a London-qualified doctor from Sierra Leone, had returned to Africa probably unaware Alice was pregnant, and he had no part in the child’s life.
Born in August 1875, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor spent most of his life in Croydon. He lived at 67 Waddon New Road, the centre of a block of three houses (all since demolished) by Pitlake bridge, which crossed the railway tracks near West Croydon station. There were slaughterhouses across the tracks, and the winds brought those smells and noises which added to the puff and rattle of trains, making the boy’s home an unlikely one for an artist.
He went to the nearby school, sang in church choirs, had violin lessons from his grandfather then professional tuition, and shortly after his 15th birthday in 1890 he started at the Royal College of Music in Kensington.

In 1893 Coleridge-Taylor was awarded a composition scholarship, studying with Charles Villiers Stanford into 1897. His student creations attracted praise in the London and musical press; his Four Characteristic Waltzes were available for a variety of forces – solo piano, piano with violin, small orchestra and large orchestra. In the winter of 1897-1898 he worked on Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, a cantata (orchestra with choir and solo vocalists) and then was commissioned by Gloucester’s music festival to create an instrumental work (he supplied the Ballade in A minor).

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, We are collaborating with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation of the U.K.,]

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