WILLIAM HART COLERIDGE
William Hart Coleridge was the son of Luke Herman Coleridge, a physician, and was born at Thorverton, Devonshire. His father died at an early age, and he was brought up by his uncle, Rev George Coleridge, headmaster of King’s School, Ottery, St. Mary. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, taking two first classes.
At the recommendation of the Bishop of London (Dr Howley) he, now 35 years of age, was nominated to the newly constituted See of Barbados and the Leeward Islands. In fact, his Diocese included all the islands of the Eastern Caribbean and Guyana. He was consecrated on July 15, 1824 and arrived at Bridgetown on His Majesty’s yacht Herald; under the command of Captain J. Leeke, on a Saturday morning early in January 1825. He was sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council on February 1, 1825.
During his episcopate, in Barbados alone, the number of clergy increased from 15-31, the places of worship, from 14 – of which HOLY CROSS, then known as Society Chapel, was one – to 35 the schools from eight – of which Society School was one – to 83, and the number of the children receiving their education in them from 500 to 7,000.
Whether as a checkmate played by the enemy of all good, or whether as a hard stroke of Providence sent to try him, a fearful hurricane in 1831 undid almost all his wonderful achievements in multiplying places of worship in this island, throwing down 15 of his newly-built churches, and reducing to ruins many of the old Parish churches. With marvellous faith and courage he remained undaunted and with funds raised locally and by subscriptions from SPC and SPCK, he rebuilt practically every church that had been demolished, before he gave up the reins of office. The Society Chapel was re-opened within two years of the hurricane, on July 30, 1833.
The Bishop, realising that it was not possible to get an adequate supply of clergy from England, had removed the Codrington Grammar School to the residence of the Chaplain of Society Chapel – formerly known as ‘Small Ridge” – but now referred to as the Chaplain’s Lodge, in accordance with the original intention of its munificent founder. He organised it in 1830, as a training college, in the first place for clergy, and also as a place for higher lay education.
He took a warm interest in the well-being of the students individually, and he opened his house freely to them during the vacations,
He retired in 1842 after an episcopate of 18 years.