Coade stone

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Father Thames, a Coade stone sculpture by John Bacon, in the grounds of Ham House

Coade stone or Lithodipyra (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 that were both of the highest quality and remain virtually weatherproof today. Produced by appointment to George III and the Prince Regent, it features on St George's Chapel, Windsor; The Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Carlton House, London; the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; and a large quantity was used in the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace in the 1820s.[1][2]

Lithodipyra was first 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][n 1][n 2][n 3] after which Lithodipyra 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 the team at Coade ltd., which now reproduce a range of Coade sculpture at their workshops in Wilton.


Lion Gate, an entrance into Kew Gardens, with its Coade stone lion statue on top.
Main article: Eleanor Coade

In 1769 Mrs Coade bought Daniel Pincot’s struggling artificial stone business at Kings Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, a site now under the Royal Festival Hall.[2][4] 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][5]

Mrs Coade did not invent 'artificial stone' - various inferior quality precursors having been both patented and manufactured over the previous forty (or sixty[3]) years - but she was 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.[4][6][7]

The company did well, and boasted an illustrious list of customers such as George III and members of the English nobility. 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,[7] 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][8][9]

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[9] whereby 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.

In 2000 Coade ltd started reproducing Coade stone statues, also creating new sculptures and architectural ornament, using the original recipes and methods of the eighteenth century.


Home of Eleanor Coade, Belmont House, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, with Coade stone ornamental façade

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. Moulds were often kept for many years, for repeated use. One-offs were clearly much more expensive to produce, as they had to carry the entire cost of creating the mould.

One of the more striking features of Coade stone is its incredible resistance to weathering, often faring better than most types of stone in London's harsh environment. Examples of Coade stonework have survived very well; prominent examples are listed below, having survived without apparent wear and tear for 150 years.

As a material, Coade stone was replaced by Portland cement as a form of artificial stone and it appears to have been largely phased out by the 1840s.

Quality controversy[edit]

Although Coade stone's reputation for both weather resistance and manufacturing quality is virtually untarnished, 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."[10][11][12] 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.[13]

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.


Contrary to popular belief[citation needed], the recipe for Coade stone still exists, produced by Coade ltd. Rather than being based on cement (as concrete articles are), it is a ceramic material.

Its manufacture required special skills: extremely careful control and skill in kiln firing, over a period of days. This skill is even more remarkable when the potential variability of kiln temperatures at that time is considered. Coade's factory was the only really successful manufacturer.

The formula used was:

This mixture was also referred to as "fortified clay" which was then inserted after kneading into a kiln which would fire the material at a temperature of 1,100 °C for over four days.[14]

A number of different variations of the recipe were used, depending on the size and fineness of detail in the work a different size and proportion of grog was used. In many pieces a combination of fine grogged Coade clay was used on the surface for detail, backed up by a more heavily grogged mixture for strength.


Over 650 pieces are still in existence worldwide.[15]

The Red Lion, aka the South Bank Lion, on Westminster Bridge. Modelled by William F. Woodington and Grade II* listed by English Heritage
Schomberg House circa 1850
Captain William Bligh's Tomb surmounted by a breadfruit in a bowl
London Lodge (1793), Highclere Castle, Hampshire. Brick but Coade stone dressed, and wings (1840), Highclere Castle, Hampshire, May 2014.

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, Oxford National Dictionary of Biography (ONDB))
  2. ^ Alison Kelly 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 in such inadequate research 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 on their prestigious website (British and some other internet sites have repeated the claims.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Eleanor Coade". 
  2. ^ a b c d "Addidi Inspiration Award for Female Entreprenneurs - Eleanor Coade". 
  3. ^ a b c Roberts, Howard; Godfrey, Walter H. "Coade's Artificial Stone Works". Victoria County History. 23: Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall. 
  4. ^ a b Parks and Gardens. Eleanor Coade - artist in artificial stone. By Timur Tatlioglu.
  5. ^ Yale University Library, Coade's Lithodipyra, or, Artificial Stone Manufactory
  6. ^ Alison Kelly, Mrs. Coade's stone (1990)
  7. ^ a b Fairweather, History of Coade stone, Synopsised from original research in Mrs Coade's Stone by Alison Kelly.
  8. ^ "Coade Stone in Georgian Architecture by Alison Kelly". 
  9. ^ a b van Lemmen, Hans (2006). Coade Stone. Princes Risborough, England: Shire. p. 6. ISBN 0-7478-0644-6. 
  10. ^ Musgrave, Clifford (1981). Life in Brighton. Rochester: Rochester Press. ISBN 0-571-09285-3. 
  11. ^ Carder, Timothy (1990). The Encyclopaedia of Brighton. Lewes: East Sussex County Libraries. ISBN 0-86147-315-9. 
  12. ^ Antram, Nicholas; Morrice, Richard (2008). Brighton and Hove. Pevsner Architectural Guides. London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12661-7. 
  13. ^ "Fashionable Brighton, 1820-1860". 
  14. ^ "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
  15. ^ BBC TV documentary series "Local Heroes", episode "South-East", 2004
  16. ^ "South Bank Lion". Flickr - Photo Sharing!. 
  17. ^ "Coad/Coode family blog: COADE STONE". 
  18. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. 
  19. ^ "Mote Park Entrance Gate, County Roscommon: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage". 
  20. ^ "Little Saxham". 

External links[edit]

Gallery of images.