John Coleridge: Influential teacher at top Norfolk school

One of the longest-serving teachers at Gresham's School, John Coleridge, died after a short illness aged 85 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn.

In his 99 terms at the Holt school, he inspired generations of pupils and instilled a love of literature, drama and was central to the never-to-be-forgotten staff productions.

As the first housemaster of Tallis and also head of English and deputy head to the legendary Logie Bruce Lockhart, he also coached hockey, cricket, rugby, athletics and was in charge of sailing.

His influence on generations of Greshamians was his ever-positive attitude. He was an encourager, an enthusiast, at his best inspirational; his classes were never dull.

You may also want to watch:

Born in 1925, in Leigh-on-Sea, he was an Essex man. He wanted to join the Royal Navy and passed entry to Dartmouth but failed the medical – having lost too many teeth playing rugby. He went up to King's College, Cambridge, in 1943 and soon joined the RNVR and became an ordinary seaman in the radar branch.

After he was demobbed, he returned to Cambridge in 1947 reading French and English and graduated in 1951, when he married Margaret in Edinburgh.

Most Read

After completing a teaching qualification, he taught at Gresham's, cycling every day from a cottage at Letheringsett. In 1959, he had the opportunity to visit the United States, when he spent a year teaching at Wooster College, Connecticut. He was to return to the USA again in 1973 on a sabbatical to research the life and times of his poetic muse, Emily Dickinson. He held many posts at the school including chairing the Archaeological Society, president of the Debating Society and edited the school magazine. But outside the grounds, he joined Holt Rotary Club, became a town councillor and also played cricket for Holt.

His wife Margaret died after they have been married for more than a quarter of a century. Then about three years later, he married Myrna.

In retirement, they moved moved to Stiffkey, then Wells and finally to Fakenham. In each place he became involved in the community and indulged his love of literature, poetry and golf, also playing bowls.

Together with Kevin Crossly-Holland, he was a co-founder of Wells Poetry Festival in 1997. As a Norfolk descendant of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he followed in the literary footsteps of his ancestor. As a great great great great nephew of the author of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he spent his career encouraging other people to read write and appreciate literature.

His book, Pro Tem, was published about five years ago, and was inspired after reading an article stated that happy childhoods generated nothing worth writing about. He was determined to prove its author wrong.

A playing member of Sheringham and Brancaster golf clubs, he also wrote their histories too. He was a former president of the Pedagogues, a golfing society for schoolmasters, and also wrote its history.

He was a steadfast member of the congregation at Wells next the Sea church and latterly of this church in Fakenham.

He is survived by Myrna, son Michael and step son Mark and five grandchildren.

A funeral service has taken place.

Michael Pollitt

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter