History Behind These Coade Stone Faces
As inventions go, an artificial stone might not seem that ground-breaking. But when Eleanor Coade created a top secret recipe in the 1770s, Coade Stone started turning heads.
In 1769 the former Linen seller, Eleanor, went into partnership with Daniel Pincot. Pincot had an artificial stone business in South London, but the couple fell out in 1771, with Coade replacing him with the sculptor John Bacon. Soon after, with his designs and her business nous, they established the Coade Artificial Stone Company as the industry’s leading firm.
The most famous Coade stone example is the South Bank Lion on Westminster Bridge.
But along quaint London streets like this one in Marylebone, you’ll sometimes find Coade stone faces looking right back at you!
Popular because it was hard-wearing and resistant to London smog. Coade stone, fresh out of the kiln was also easily malleable for a short time after. This made it perfect for creating animated faces.
These houses on Brendon Street have another side to the story though. Built after the 1774 London Building Act, the law meant no new building could have unnecessary decorative woodwork, an important safety concern in the wake of the 1666 Great Fire of London.
Not wanting houses to appear bland, architects and owners alike took to Coade stone decoration to add a bit of character.
When Eleanor (always known as Mrs Coade despite never marrying) died in 1821, the business just wasn’t the same. Her death coupled with a declining fashion for Coade stone meant by 1840 the Company closed and the recipe for her famous stone was lost.
It was only in the 1990s that the recipe for Coade stone was rediscovered, but thanks to the durability of this 18th century invention, there are plenty of examples left to be found on London’s streets.