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Coade, Eleanor and her successors (1733-1821)

Coade, Eleanor and her successors

London (1769- c.1840).

Eleanor Coade (b.1733–d.1821) made an artificial stone at Narrow Wall, Lambeth, which so successfully imitated natural limestone that it has been mistaken for it ever since. The firm began in 1769, and it is possible that her mother, also called Eleanor (d. 1796) was involved, but as she was over 60 in 1769 it seems probable that the daughter ran the firm from the beginning. Daniel Pincot, who also made some form of artificial stone, was her manager at first, but he was sacked in 1771, and John Bacon, the sculptor, then at the beginning of his career, was appointed manager a few weeks later. The firm owed much to his elegant figure designs and, no doubt, to the admiration shown by George III for his sculpture, which led to a number of royal Coade commissions.

At first, Coade pieces were stamped ‘COADE’, or, for a period in the 1780s to 1790s, ‘COADE'S LITHODIPYRA’. In 1799 she took on as partner her cousin John Sealy, and the firm became Coade & Sealy until his death in 1813. She then appointed William Croggon, a remote relation, to be her manager. His work books from 1813–21 survive. [PRO, C.111/106] The firm's stamp, which had been ‘COADE & SEALY’, reverted to being ‘COADE’. On Eleanor's death in 1821, William Croggon bought the business and traded successfully, doing much work for Buckingham Palace, until 1833. He then went bankrupt, probably through £20,000-worth of work left unpaid by the Duke of York, and died in 1835. His son Thomas John refounded the firm which survived until the early 1980s. Very little more Coade stone was made, however, and no pieces dated later than 1840 have been found, though the moulds were not sold until 1843. Mark Blanchard, of Blackfriars Rd advertised as late as 1855 that he had been trained at the Coade factory and was their successor, using the Coade formula. Several pieces of Coade design and apparently of the Coade medium, but marked Blanchard, are known; but he later followed the Victorian fashion for red and yellow terracotta.

In 1784, a catalogue of more than 700 items was published. Engravings were made of these from time to time, and booklets of prints were assembled, probably after 1784, of which three in various formats exist. [British Library, GL, and Sir John Soane's Museum] Further information about the firm's designs comes from the handbook, published in 1799, of the exhibition gallery opened by Coade and Sealy at Pedlar's Acre, near the Surrey end of Westminster Bridge.

After he took over, William Croggon opened premises in the New Rd (Euston Rd—Marylebone Rd). These must have been showrooms to take advantage of the well-to-do public now establishing itself in the New Regent's Park residential district. The Pedlar's Acre gallery must have closed as its elaborate sculptured frontispiece seems to have been taken to the New Rd. The factory remained on the old site, but changed its address as the winding lane of Narrow Wall was straightened to become Belvedere Rd.

The main part of Mrs Coade's production took advantage of the fact that her material was weatherproof, and therefore particularly suitable for gardens. In 1784 she offered a garden seat for £3 10s. But she also made a number of pieces suitable for interior use; the catalogue offers a clock stand and a dining room group consisting of a pair of pedestals surmounted by urns, and a wine cooler to go underneath a table between them. She also had a very large range of swags, festoons, griffins, urns, flowers, paterae etc. in low relief (many of them costing only a few pence) which could be stuck on a wood background for chimney-pieces and furniture. When painted in with the background, these motifs successfully imitated hand carving, and offered an alternative to the metal or composition ornaments sold by other manufacturers.

No furniture decorated in this way has been traced so far, but a fine pair of seats, or more properly thrones, in Coade stone survives at Parham Park, Sussex. These copy exactly a Roman throne drawn by C. H. Tatham in the Vatican in 1799. The arms of these thrones are sphinxes whose wings sweep up to meet the tops of the backs. Thomas Hope's Household Furniture, 1807 portrays an identical pair of thrones in his Picture Gallery in Duchess St. In the text, they are described as being of stone; unfortunately the provenance of the Parham seats is not known, so it is not possible to be certain if these are Hope's own seats, or duplicates. In the same illustration there is a tripod table consisting of three lion-faced monopodia, copied from a table in the House of the Cervi, Herculaneum. Mrs Coade had already made a copy of this classical piece for Sir John Griffin Griffin at Audley End, Essex, in 1783, and it still survives there. If Hope had wanted another, the moulds would have existed at Lambeth, and Mrs Coade could have made him another copy of this catalogue number: unfortunately we have no evidence that his tripod table was made by her and not by his regular cabinetmaker.

Pedestals for lamps or sculpture were also made, and a fine set of four, consisting of three classically draped girls linked by garlands, survives at West Wycombe Park, Bucks. In an inventory of 1781 they are described as ‘4 Composition therms Designed and Executed in a Masterly Stile’. They hold round tables or abaci on their heads which now support a set of four sculptures by Delvaux. Another similar pair, though with the figures having their arms raised, were sold from Godmersham Park, Kent, in June 1983 for £32,000. Candelabra were also made in the style of the great Classical pieces several feet high in the Vatican collection. One example, bronzed, is at Tatton Park, Cheshire, and another, with the Coade stone left in its natural state, and thought to have come from the house of Sir George Beaumont, is now in a private collection. These could be used to hold candelabra or lamps. The range of Coade classical figures, mainly designed for ornament, could also make themselves useful by holding candle-branches in their hands. A number of orders for them appear in Croggon's order book, and they were made earlier as well, as a set of ten Sibyls, holding lamps in their hands, survive in the Chapel at Burghley House, Northants., and were in situ before 1799.

The bulk of Mrs Coade's pieces were based on Classical models, but she sometimes worked in a Gothic style. For the conservatory of Carlton House, Thomas Hopper in 1810 ordered a set of ten great Gothic candelabra. They are strange pieces, 7ft high with their bases consisting of bat-winged creatures perhaps supposed to be Welsh dragons. The shafts and tops are decorated with pointed arches and other Gothic details. Plate 1 of Pyne's Royal Residences, 1819 shows these pieces, described in the text as being ‘enriched with devices most tastefully designed and curiously modeled which support elegant lamps of six burners each’. (The lamps are not shown on the plate). These candelabra were taken to Windsor and then lost sight of. In the 1970s some of them, or a duplicate set, were sold at Christie's. Another specimen is now in the garden at Athelhampton, Dorset.

During the Regency period, Mrs Coade and Croggon embarked on the manufacture of scagliola. Most of the pieces were columns, but a number of slabs were made for furniture dealers or individual customers, and details of them are in Croggon's work books. They were usually narrow, and their front and side edges were polished, suggesting that they were for console tables. Such slabs were supplied to Seddon of Aldersgate St, Ferguson of Oxford St and John Mullane of Palace Row, New Rd. A similar slab was supplied to Miss Johnes of Portman Sq. Scagliola pedestals were made for General Phipps of Mount St, Mr Blacquier of Dublin and Earl Grosvenor of Upper Grosvenor St. Sir John Langham, of Langham House, Portland Pl. had a set of pedestals with his arms on them, though how this was contrived in the scagliola is not clear. Eight small pedestals, perhaps the bases for clocks, were made for Justin Vulliamy of Pall Mall. Most of these orders date from 1820–21, and as Croggon's work books end in that year and he went on making scagliola through the 1820s, it is likely that there were other examples of which no information survives. 

Source: DEFM.

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.