Coade stone

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Lion and Unicorn, entrance to Kensington Palace

Coade stone or Lithodipyra or Lithodipra (Ancient Greek (λίθος/δίς/πυρά), "stone fired twice") was stoneware that was often described as an artificial stone in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was used for moulding neoclassical statues, architectural decorations and garden ornaments of the highest quality that remain virtually weatherproof today.

Coade stone features were produced by appointment to George III and the Prince Regent for St George's Chapel, Windsor; The Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Carlton House, London; the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; and refurbishment of Buckingham Palace in the 1820s.[1][2]

The product (originally known as Lithodipyra) was created around 1770 by Eleanor Coade, who ran Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory, Coade and Sealy, and Coade in Lambeth, London, from 1769 until her death in 1821.[1] It continued to be manufactured by her last business partner, William Croggon, until 1833.[1][3]

The recipe and techniques for producing Coade stone have been rediscovered by Coade Ltd., which produces sculpture at its workshops in Wilton, Wiltshire.[citation needed]


Eleanor Coade's home, Belmont House, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, with Coade stone ornamental façade

In 1769 Mrs Coade[a][b][c] bought Daniel Pincot’s struggling artificial stone business at Kings Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, a site now under the Royal Festival Hall.[2][5] This business developed into Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory with Eleanor in charge, such that within two years (1771) she fired Pincot for 'representing himself as the chief proprietor'.[1][2][6]

Coade did not invent 'artificial stone'. Various lesser quality ceramic precursors to Lithodipyra had been both patented and manufactured over the previous forty (or sixty[3]) years prior to its appearance. She was, however, probably responsible for perfecting both the clay recipe and the firing process. It is possible that Pincot's business was a continuation of that run nearby by Richard Holt, who had taken out two patents in 1722 for a kind of liquid metal or stone and another for making china without the use of clay, but there were many start-up 'artificial stone' businesses in the early 18th century of which only Mrs Coade's succeeded.[5][7][8]

The company did well, and boasted an illustrious list of customers such as George III and members of the English nobility.[d] In 1799 Mrs Coade appointed her cousin John Sealy (her mother’s sister Mary’s son), already working as a modeller, as a partner in her business,[8] which then traded as 'Coade and Sealy' until his death in 1813 when it reverted to just 'Coade'.

In 1799 she opened a show room Coade's Gallery on Pedlar's Acre at the Surrey end of Westminster Bridge Road to display her products.[1][2][10][11]

In 1813 Mrs Coade took on William Croggan from Grampound in Cornwall, a sculptor and distant relative by marriage (second cousin once removed). He managed the factory until her death eight years later in 1821[11] whereupon he bought the factory from the executors for c. £4000. Croggan supplied a lot of Coade stone for Buckingham Palace; however, he went bankrupt in 1833 and died two years later. Trade declined, and production came to an end in the early 1840s.

Current production[edit]

In 2000 Coade ltd started producing statues, sculptures and architectural ornament, using the original eighteenth century recipes and methods.[citation needed]


Lion Gate, Kew Gardens
Lion Gate (above), an entrance into Kew Gardens, with its Coade stone lion statue on top. Coade stone unicorn statue (below) atop Unicorn Gate, another entrance into the Gardens.
Unicorn Gate, Kew Gardens


Coade stone is a type of stoneware. Mrs Coade's own name for her products was Lithodipyra, a name constructed from ancient Greek words meaning "stone-twice-fire" (λίθος/δίς/πυρά), or "twice fired stone". Its colours varied from light grey to light yellow (or even beige) and its surface is best described as having a matte finish.

The ease with which the product could be moulded into complex shapes made it ideal for large statues, sculptures and sculptural façades. One-off commissions were expensive to produce, as they had to carry the entire cost of creating a mould. Whenever possible moulds were kept for many years of repeated use.


The recipe for Coade stone is still used by Coade Ltd. It is a ceramic, rather than a cementatious material (such as concrete).[citation needed]

Its manufacture required extremely careful control and skill in kiln firing over a period of days, difficult to achieve with its era's fuels and technology. Coade's factory was the only really successful manufacturer.

The formula used was:

This mixture was also referred to as "fortified clay", which was kneaded before insertion into a 1,100 °C kiln for firing over four days[9] – a production technique very similar to brick manufacture.

Depending on the size and fineness of detail in the work, a different size and proportion of Coade grog was used. In many pieces a combination of grogs was used, with fine grogged clay applied to the surface for detail, backed up by a more heavily grogged mixture for strength.


One of the more striking features of Coade stone is its high resistance to weathering, with the material often faring better than most types of natural stone in London's harsh environment.[citation needed] Prominent examples listed below have survived without apparent wear and tear for 150 years. There were, however, notable exceptions.[e] A few works produced by Coade, mainly dating from the later period, have shown poor resistance to weathering due to a bad firing in the kiln where the material was not brought up to a sufficient temperature.[citation needed]


Coade stone was superseded by products using naturally exothermic Portland cement as a binder, and appears to have been largely phased out by the 1840s.


Over 650 pieces are still in existence worldwide.[16][17]

In 2020, the library of Birkbeck, University of London launched the Coade Stone image collection online, consisting of digitised slides of examples of Coade stone bequeathed by Alison Kelly, whose book Coade Stone was described by Caroline Stanford as "the most authoritative treatment on the subject".[29][30]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ There is some modern confusion between Eleanor and her mother (Eleanor, Elinore), as to which one ran the factory. This is primarily because of Miss Eleanor Coade's customary use of the title Mrs because this was a commonplace 'courtesy title' for any unmarried woman in business. However, analysis of the bills shows that Eleanor Coade (daughter) was fully in charge from 1771. (Alison Kelly (art historian), Oxford National Dictionary of Biography (ONDB)).
  2. ^ Alison Kelly (art historian) states on page 23 of Mrs Coade's Stone – "Since mother and daughter had the same name, confusion has reigned over the contribution of each of them to the manufactory. The widow Coade was of course Mrs, and it has been assumed that any mention of Mrs Coade must refer to her. Rupert Gunnis, for instance, believed that the widow ran the factory until her death in her late eighties, in 1796. What is not generally realised is that women in business, in Georgian times, had the courtesy title of Mrs so in the Coade records, it normally refers to Miss Coade. Bills were usually headed Eleanor Coade, but two, as early as 1771, for Hatfield Priory, Essex, and 1773, for work at Burton upon Trent Town Hall, were made out to Miss Coade, showing that from the early days she was in charge. The only references that specifically concern the mother are the first two entries for the factory in the Lambeth poor rate books, when the rate was paid by Widow Coade."
  3. ^ It appears that the modern identity confusion dates from 1951 (or earlier) when Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey published the Survey of London: volume 23 – Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall, and their confusion about the Coade family genealogy led to both gaps and false conclusions. Typically this state of knowledge was then reiterated by Rupert Gunnis in his 1953 Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660–1851. More recently, the 'British History Online' website has given credence to the otherwise-excellent Roberts and Godfrey Survey of London,[4] and some other internet sites have repeated the claims.
  4. ^ Mrs. Coade sold to "a Debrett's full of English lords and Dukes."[9]
  5. ^ Three sources describe Rossi's statue of George IV erected in the Royal Crescent, Brighton as "unable to withstand the weathering effects of sea-spray and strong wind: such that, by 1807 the fingers on the sculpture's left hand had been destroyed, and soon afterwards the whole right arm dropped off."[12][13][14] By contrast however Fashionable Brighton, 1820–1860 by Antony Dale (online) describes similar damage as 'wore badly' but does not attribute 'broken fingers, nose, mantle and arm on an unloved statue' to weathering or poor quality Coade stone. In 1819, after considerable complaints, the relic was removed and its present state is undocumented.[15]
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  1. ^ a b c d e Alison Kelly (art historian) (2004). "Eleanor Coade". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37296. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b c d "Addidi Inspiration Award for Female Entrepreneurs - Eleanor Coade". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Roberts, Howard; Godfrey, Walter H. "Coade's Artificial Stone Works". Victoria County History. 23: Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall.
  4. ^ British
  5. ^ a b Parks and Gardens. Eleanor Coade – artist in artificial stone. By Timur Tatlioglu.
  6. ^ Yale University Library, Coade's Lithodipyra, or, Artificial Stone Manufactory Archived 3 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Kelly, Alison (1990). Mrs. Coade's stone. Self Publishing Association.[page needed]
  8. ^ a b Fairweather, History of Coade stone, Synopsised from original research in Mrs Coade's Stone by Alison Kelly. Archived 4 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b "A Couple of Dogs that Never Need Feeding, And Other Garden Gems", by Wendy Moonan; pg. B36 of The New York Times, 28 April 2006
  10. ^ Kelly, Alison (1985). "Coade Stone in Georgian Architecture by Alison Kelly (art historian)". Architectural History. 28: 71–101. doi:10.2307/1568527. JSTOR 1568527.
  11. ^ a b van Lemmen, Hans (2006). Coade Stone. Princes Risborough, England: Shire. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7478-0644-8.
  12. ^ Musgrave, Clifford (1981). Life in Brighton. Rochester: Rochester Press. ISBN 978-0-571-09285-7.
  13. ^ Carder, Timothy (1990). The Encyclopaedia of Brighton. Lewes: East Sussex County Libraries. ISBN 978-0-86147-315-1.
  14. ^ Antram, Nicholas; Morrice, Richard (2008). Brighton and Hove. Pevsner Architectural Guides. London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12661-7.
  15. ^ Dale, Antony (1967). Fashionable Brighton, 1820–1860. ISBN 9780853620280.
  16. ^ BBC TV documentary series "Local Heroes", episode "South-East", 2004
  17. ^ The National Trust, What is Coade Stone?
  18. ^ Historic England. "The Orangery Approximately 10 Metres to South-west of Burton Constable Hall (1083445)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  19. ^ "Water of Leith Stockbridge Geological Walk Local geodiversity site … Produced by lothian and borders geoconservation, a subcommittee of the edinburgh geological society, a charity registered in scotland charity no: sc008011" copyright “ Lothian and Borders Geoconservation 2011".
  20. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1223784)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  21. ^ Portobello Amenity Society, Portobello Coade Stone Pillars
  22. ^ "Mote Park Entrance Gate, County Roscommon: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage".
  23. ^ a b The Landmark Trust, Where to find Coade stone
  24. ^ "Little Saxham". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012.
  25. ^ "South Bank Lion". Flickr – Photo Sharing!. 6 January 2008.
  26. ^ "Coad/Coode family blog: COADE STONE".
  27. ^ "Statue in centre of Trinity Church". Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  28. ^ Conservation Building Services Ltd, CBS, St Mary’s, Tremadog, Gwynedd.* Coade Stone Lych Gate
  29. ^ "The Coade Stone image collection". Birkbeck, University of London. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  30. ^ Stanford, Caroline (2016). "Revisiting the Origins of Coade Stone" (PDF). The Georgian Group Journal. The Georgian Group. 24 (2016): 95–116. Retrieved 18 March 2020.

External links[edit]

Gallery of images.