In this month of March, which featured World Women’s Day, a friend asked me if I knew of any historic female entrepreneurs with connections to Lyme Regis. Well, there is one person in particular who springs to mind.

Eleanor Coade was born in 1733 to a prominent family with connections in Lyme and Exeter. The family wealth was made through wool and clay. Eleanor became particularly interested in the clay side of the business and in 1769 established a partnership with a Daniel Pincot in Lambeth in artificial stone making. Within two years she was the sole owner of the business which went from strength to strength. For many years her “coadestone” figures were extremely fashionable and commanded a high price. They were famous for their durability and resistance to weathering, and adorned many famous buildings.

Eleanor never married, but added the prefix Mrs to her name for respectability. One wonders how many other compromises she had to make to swim against the tide and occupy such a unique position for a woman in 18th century England. The Coades were clearly a remarkable family with Quaker connections who among other things fought hard against political corruption in Lyme Regis.

Eleanor’s uncle bequeathed her a beautiful house at the top of Pound Street in Lyme called Belmont which is covered with many unique examples of coadestone figurines. To the casual observer the figurines may look as if they are the best preserved parts of the house. Belmont later became of property of John Fowles and, according to his wishes is now in the hands of the Landmark Trust who are perusing a program of restoration.

Eleanor Coade must have been an extraordinary person.