Eleanor Coade - artist in artificial stone
The use of Coade Stone in gardens
From 1771 a stream of ornamental features left the Coade workshop, bound for the finest designed landscapes in the country. Fountains, herms and terms, pineapples, orbs, animals and human figures all left the kilns in Lambeth for gardens designed by the most prominent designers of the day, such as ‘Capability' Brown and Humphry Repton.
Among the many figures created by Eleanor Coade and her designers, there were only a small number of males. The finest example, and certainly the most advanced, is the River God at Ham House near Richmond in Surrey. The reclining figure is nine foot long and is placed on a Coade stone rock. The figure itself was fired in one piece and was designed by John Bacon. It was the most expensive piece in the Coade catalogue of 1784, priced at 100 guineas (Kelly 1988, 127).
The Coade workshops also created a host of other forms. Of particular note were the array of vases that were, in the main, created between 1771 and 1827. During her study of Coade stone, Alison Kelly located a number of Medici- and Borghese-style vases, a form revered by Georgian connoisseurs (Kelly 1988, 111).
One pair, which includes Borghese reliefs on a unique body, can be found at Killerton House in Devon. Eleanor Coade also designed a series of animals, such as standing lions and tigers. These proved a particular challenge when firing as the heavy clay bodies were placed on the small legs on the animals.
Despite the difficulties, the result was some of the finest examples of animal sculpture for the period. The sitting lions guarding a flight of steps in the garden at Audley End in Essex are an example of a particular piece that could be altered: purchasers could choose versions facing either left or right (Kelly 1988, 112).
A number of memorials were also produced in Coade stone. One of the most apt examples was found at Croome Court in Worcestershire, where ‘Capability' Brown was commemorated. Built in 1809, almost 30 years after Brown's death in 1783, the monument was made up of a casket and pedestal. The inscription read: ‘To the memory of Lancelot Brown who by the powers of his inimitable genius formed this garden scene out of morass' (Kelly 1988, 115). Unfortunately a falling tree destroyed the memorial in 1972.