Design icons: Coadestone


From my regular series of Design Icons written for ABC RN Blueprint. You can find others on my main page and also on the Blueprint and Podcasts pages.

Coadestone was broadcast on the 19th March 2022. You can listen to the audio here.

*

Eleanor Coade was a woman ahead of her time. Not only did she run an extremely successful business in 18th century London but she helped develop an outstanding artificial stone known as Coadestone. It wasn’t the first but it was the best.

Eleanor started life working in her family’s textile business in Devon. When her father was declared bankrupt, she moved to London and set up a linen company. It was there that she came across an artificial stone business in Lambeth and saw an opportunity. From 1769 until after her death in 1821 her business employed sculptors and craftsmen, creating copies of famous works as well as new designs, all in artificial stone. This was to her own recipe, combining clay with powdered glass, flint and crushed pottery, and then firing it at high temperatures over a long period so that the end result was remarkably strong and looked like the finest pale stone. It was even better, though, as it shrugged off the grime of the industrial city and retained its sharpness when real stone had begun to erode. She liked to call it ‘lithodipyra’, a Greek word that meant twice-fired stone, thereby eliminating any notion of fakery and cheapness, although it was most definitely a ceramic, a little like vitrified brick.

The beautifully proportioned architecture of the Georgian period is often seen as one of the most refined. Embellishments were popular, from decorative urns and ornamental medallions to statues and fountains. Eleanor employed the sculptor Joseph Panzetta, whose finest work in Coadestone is a richly detailed commemoration of Admiral Nelson’s death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where his body is passed to Britannia by the winged figure of Victory. It was copied from a painting by Benjamin West and fills a pediment at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Such sculptures became especially popular after Lord Elgin stripped the Parthenon in Athens of all its sculptures, causing a sensation in Britain and kick-starting a new fashion for classicism in all its forms.

Lions were popular, used at the base of columns or atop grand gateways, and the one that sits today on Westminster Bridge used to grace the entrance to the Lion Brewery that once stood nearby. This was the perfect material for fine work and Coade lavishly employed it on her own home, Belmont, in Lyme Regis, which she embellished with a frieze of garlands, a row of classical urns along the parapet and rusticated window surrounds that were totally up-to-the-minute.  Work from her workshop found its way around the world, from a Nelson statue in Montreal to a Classical portico for a palace in Rio de Janeiro.

Eleanor’s success made her an inspirational figure. When she died, she left money to married friends with the decree that their husbands must not be able to influence how it was spent. While her business continued after her death, new materials like Portland cement made terracotta and concrete mixes cheaper to produce and the Coadestone workshop closed in 1833. Artificial stone remains popular, as seen in the engineered stone benchtops of today’s kitchens. There are cheap versions, too, like architectural mouldings made from polystyrene given a gritty finish and which seldom last when used outside. There’s snobbery around fakery, no doubt, but in certain instances it makes sense. And Eleanor Coade demonstrated that to perfection.

Categories: Architecture, Design, Icons, Other, radioTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

La petite musique des vendredis

Le blog culturel d'Hélène Cascaro- arts visuels, cinéma, patrimoine, artisanat d'art, architecture,...

annabellabraydotcom

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Avisha Rasminda

Hi, I'm Avisha Rasminda. Twenty years old.

Ananda Only

an empty space between silence & stillness

Are we there yet?

Diversions, detours and discoveries

Nick Alexander

Author of From Something Old, The Road to Zoe, You Then Me Now, Things We Never Said, The Bottle of Tears, The Other Son, The Photographer's Wife, The Half-Life of Hannah, the 50 Reasons Series. And more...

Dr David T Evans, OBE NTF PFHEA RN(T)

Sexual health matters! It really does!

Dr. Eric Perry’s Self-Help Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Cole Moreton

Award-winning writer and broadcaster

Wildonline.blog

British Wildlife & Photography

Place, Plots and Plans

The PlaceMatt Blog

viewer site

Barbara Heath & Malcolm Enright - our viewer site blog

Museum Travelers

Cultural travel for curious minds

kirilson photography

the stories behind the pictures, and vice versa

Not-So-Modern Girl

Thoughts of a twenty-something girl navigating her way one blog post at a time

Anthony Hillin

Training, Facilitation and Policy development

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

MOVIE-WARDEN

T.V/Movie News & Reviews

SAVING OUR TREES - Marrickville municipality

Community Tree Watch - working to protect healthy public trees in Marrickville municipality from inappropriate removal

MOVIE MUSIC UK

Film Score Reviews by Jonathan Broxton since 1997

A life in books

Book news, reviews and recommendations

150 great things about the Underground

An unofficial birthday salute to a public transport titan

Mistakes & Adventures

What I've always wanted

Expedictionary

Literary Geography

UNSW Built Environment's Blog

Information from students and staff at Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.

joe moran's words

on the everyday, the banal and other important matters

The Back Road Chronicles

Curious soul...and it makes me wanna take the back roads!

Fool for France

A house of one's own

Wee Notions

Notes on a napkin

Philip Butler Photography

Architecture & Observations

Susie Trexler

Secret Knowledge of Spaces

Rebecca Renner

Welcome to Gator Country

DynamicStasis

DynamicStasis is basically an attempt to think about and discuss integrity, beauty, and delight - in architecture and elsewhere.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate

%d bloggers like this: