Mrs Coade and the Everlasting Stone
At the top of the town in Lyme Regis stands Belmont, an ornate Regency mansion, once the summer residence of Eleanor Coade.
Eleanor was a renowned 18th century female entrepreneur who's name became synonymous with a revolutionary new building material, Coadestone. Mrs Coade had become a successful businesswoman despite the restrictions of male dominated society (the appellation 'Mrs' was simply a way of increasing her respectability as she never married).
Coadestone was a solution to the growing pollution of the Georgian cities which meant natural stone was quickly attacked by the acidic atmosphere. Unlike normal artificial stone which hardened by chemical reaction Coadestone was a ceramic material. (Its original name 'lithodiyra' meant 'twice fired'). The resulting product was not only impervious to the elements but could be modelled with extremely fine detail.
Coadestone Statue of George III, Weymouth
From her factory on the banks of the Thames, where the Royal Festival Hall now stands, came a huge variety of statuary destined for the parks and gardens of the well to do (Capability Brown was a customer) as well as the great urban schemes of John Nash.
Coadestone has managed to resist the elements so successfully that many pieces still exist throughout the world in pristine condition. Examples embellish Buckingham palace, Brighton Royal pavilion and even Eleanor Coade's own mansion in Lyme Regis.
Strangely, production of Coadestone did not long outlast Mrs Coade's death and the recipe has remained lost until very recently.
The house's story does not end there as two hundred years later it became the home of the celebrated author John Fowls until his death in 2005.
It now looks distinctly forlorn as it awaits refurbishment at the hands of the Landmark trust who intend to return it to its former glory and then to make it available for short lets.
Ian Dicks, Dorset Dorset
Published on 09/06/2012.