Coade, Eleanor

Coade, Eleanor
b. 24 June 1733 Exeter, Devon, England
d. 18 November 1821 Camberwell, London, England
English proprietor of the Coade Factory, making artificial stone.
Born Elinor Coade, she never married but adopted, as was customary in business in the eighteenth century, the courtesy title of Mrs. Following the bankruptcy and death of her father, George Coade, in Exeter, Eleanor and her mother (also called Eleanor) moved to London and founded the works at Lambeth, South London, in 1769 that later became famous as the Coade factory. The factory was located at King's Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall. During the eighteenth century, several attempts had been made in other businesses to manufacture a durable, malleable artificial stone that would be acceptable to architects for decorative use. These substances were not very successful, but Coade stone was different. Although stories are legion about the secret formula supposedly used in this artificial stone, modern methods have established the exact formula.
Coade stone was a stoneware ceramic material fired in a kiln. The body was remarkable in that it shrank only 8 per cent in drying and firing: this was achieved by using a combination of china clay, sand, crushed glass and grog (i.e. crushed and ground, previously fired stoneware). The Coade formula thus included a considerable proportion of material that, having been fired once already, was unshrinkable. Mrs Coade's name for the firm, Coade's Lithodipyra Terra-Cotta or Artificial Stone Manufactory (where "Lithodipyra" is a term derived from three Greek words meaning "stone", "twice" and "fire"), made reference to the custom of including such material (such as in Josiah Wedgwood's basalt and jasper ware). The especially low rate of shrinkage rendered the material ideal for making extra-life-size statuary, and large architectural, decorative features to be incorporated into stone buildings.
Coade stone was widely used for such purposes by leading architects in Britain and Ireland from the 1770s until the 1830s, including Robert Adam, Sir Charles Barry, Sir William Chambers, Sir John Soane, John Nash and James Wyatt. Some architects introduced the material abroad, as far as, for example, Charles Bulfinch's United States Bank in Boston, Massachusetts, and Charles Cameron's redecoration for the Empress Catherine of the great palace Tsarkoe Selo (now Pushkin), near St Petersburg. The material so resembles stone that it is often mistaken for it, but it is so hard and resistant to weather that it retains sharpness of detail much longer than the natural substance. The many famous British buildings where Coade stone was used include the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, Carlton House and the Sir John Soane Museum (all of which are located in London), St George's Chapel at Windsor, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, and Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Apart from the qualities of the material, the Coade firm established a high reputation for the equally fine quality of its classical statuary. Mrs Coade employed excellent craftsmen such as the sculptor John Bacon (1740–99), whose work was mass-produced by the use of moulds. One famous example which was widely reproduced was the female caryatid from the south porch of the Erechtheion on the acropolis of Athens. A drawing of this had appeared in the second edition of Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens in 1789, and many copies were made from the original Coade model; Soane used them more than once, for example on the Bank of England and his own houses in London.
Eleanor Coade was a remarkable woman, and was important and influential on the neo-classical scene. She had close and amicable relations with leading architects of the day, notably Robert Adam and James Wyatt. The Coade factory was enlarged and altered over the years, but the site was finally cleared during 1949–50 in preparation for the establishment of the 1951 Festival of Britain.
Further Reading
A.Kelly, 1990, Mrs Coade's Stone, pub. in conjunction with the Georgian Group (an interesting, carefully written history; includes a detailed appendix on architects who used Coade stone and buildings where surviving work may be seen).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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