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Friday, 28 September 2018

Eleanor Coade (1733-1821) - artificial stone manufacturer extraordinaire

Close up view of the head of the Coade stone  statue of George III, Weymouth seafront © A Knowles
Close up view of the head of the Coade stone
statue of George III, Weymouth seafront © A Knowles
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Eleanor Coade (3 June 1733 – 16 November 1821) was a Georgian businesswoman who successfully ran an artificial stone manufactory in London. There are many examples of Coade stone which still exist today including the King’s Statue, Weymouth. You can read more about Eleanor Coade and eleven other inspirational Georgian women in my book: What Regency Women Did For Us.

Front cover of What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles

Available from Amazon UK here: What Regency Women Did for Us

Available from Amazon.com here: What Regency Women Did For Us 


Early life

Eleanor Coade was born on 3 June 1733 in Exeter, Devon. She was the daughter of George Coade, a wealthy, non-conformist wool merchant, and his wife, Elizabeth Enchmarch. Eleanor had a younger sister, Elizabeth. In 1759, the family fortunes changed when George was declared bankrupt and they relocated to London.

Eleanor's Coade stone

By 1766, Eleanor, still unmarried, was operating as a linen draper. Three years later, seemingly unaffected by her father’s second bankruptcy, she bought an artificial stone manufactory situated at King’s Arms Stairs, Lambeth. Eleanor’s factory could produce in artificial stone almost anything that could be made in real stone, but at a cheaper price. Her products included decorative wall panels, vases and statues. She later diversified into scagliola – fake marble.

Eleanor was able to turn around the failing factory and make it successful. What set her business apart from other artificial stone manufactories was the quality and design of her products. She refined the formula for artificial stone – what she called lithodipyra – and carefully controlled the firing process, making her stone frost-resistant. She also employed top designers, most importantly, fellow non-conformist, the sculptor John Bacon (1740-1799).

View of Coade stone statues including the   River God Thames inside the kiln   from European Magazine  and London Review Volume 11 (1787)
View of Coade stone statues including the River God Thames inside the
kiln from European Magazine and London Review Volume 11 (1787)
In the 1780s, she took her cousin John Sealy into partnership and the business became known as Coade and Sealy.

The Coade Stone Gallery

Eleanor used every opportunity to promote her business. In the late 1790s, she built a gallery at the south bank end of Westminster Bridge where the public could come and view her products. She even sold guidebooks to visitors so that they could take a self-guided tour. The gallery participated so successfully in the peace illuminations of 1801 and 1802 that it was mentioned in The Times.

Eleanor drew people into her business by advertising in the newspaper when she had spectacular commissions on display, such as the colossal statue of Lieutenant-General Lord Hill, or new pieces for sale which she hoped would generate a lot of interest, such as the Warwick Vase.

Entrance to Coade and Sealy's Gallery   of Sculpture from European Magazine  and London Review Volume 41 (1802)
Entrance to Coade and Sealy's Gallery of Sculpture
from European Magazine and London Review Volume 41 (1802)
The final years

When John Sealy died in 1813, the firm’s name reverted to Coade. Eleanor took on a distant relative, William Croggon, to manage the manufactory, but she did not make him her partner, nor did she leave him the business on her death.

Eleanor died at her home in Camberwell, Surrey, on 16 November 1821 aged 88 years. Her will included bequests to many charities and clergymen, and to numerous single women who were less fortunate than herself.

Coade stone

Coade stone has proved its durability by the number of pieces that have survived 200 years of facing the elements. Here are some that I have come across in my travels:

King’s Statue, Weymouth
A statue of George III on Weymouth seafront.

Statue of George III, Weymouth seafront
Statue of George III, Weymouth, Dorset
The River God, Ham House, Richmond

Statue of the River God, Ham House, Richmond
Statue of the River God, Ham House, Richmond
Coade stone lion in the visitor centre, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The lion was designed by Benjamin West as a trial piece for the pediment in the King William Courtyard commemorating the achievements of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Coade stone lion,  Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Coade stone lion,Old Royal
Naval College, Greenwich, London
Belmont House, Lyme Regis
This house was given to Eleanor by her uncle Samuel Coade and is decorated with Coade stone.

Belmont House, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Belmont House, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Coade stone reliefs on Norwegian embassy, London

Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone relief, Norwegian embassy, London
Coade stone torchere from Carlton House – one at Athelhampton House, Dorset

Coade stone torchere,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Gothic conservatory, Carlton House, London,   showing the Coade stone torcheres in situ  from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Gothic conservatory, Carlton House, London, showing the Coade stone
torcheres in situ from Ackermann's Repository (1811)
Coat of arms on the front entrance of Saltram, Plymouth, Devon

Saltram, Plymouth, Devon
Saltram, Plymouth, Devon
Twinings tea house, Strand, London

Entrance to Twinings tea house, Strand, London
Entrance to Twinings tea house, Strand, London
Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead

Coade stone Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Coade stone Borghese Vase in Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Sources used include:
Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1811)
Kelly, Alison, Mrs Coade's Stone (1990)
Roberts, Sir Howard, and Godfrey, Walter H, Survey of London Volume XXIII - South Bank & Vauxhall Part 1 (1951)
The European Magazine and London review, volume 11 (1787)
The European Magazine and London review, volume 41 (1802)
The Times online archive

4 comments:

  1. this is the one I remember and saw the most...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Bank_Lion

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  2. I came across your wonderful blog today. I'm enjoying reading all your interesting posts.
    Ann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. Rachel

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  3. The story of E. Coade and Coade stone is fascinating. Wonderful that so much is still around.
    Thanks for sharing. I have a booklet about the stone.In one way it is unfortunate that the stone gets mentioned more than the lady.

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