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Behind the Scenes22nd November 2021

Gold-gilded coat of arms once again fit for a King

As our Hidden Heroines:  the untold stories of the women of Dockyard, temporary exhibition closes this season, we continue to discover inspiring characters who played valuable roles throughout the Dockyard’s 400-year history.

Born in 1733, Eleanor Coade invented and produced a versatile and hard wearing artificial stone from her factory in Lambeth.  At a time when industry was dominated by men, Coade stone was in huge demand in the 18th century and used by every leading architect and designer of the day.

In 1811, George III commissioned a coat of arms on Coade stone to hang on the imposing Main Gate (1720) at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham. This coat of arms reflected his renunciation of his claim to the French throne in 1800, following the union with Ireland and the abolition of the French monarchy. These arms replaced the original George I coat of arms, which were moved to the inside of the gate.

This summer, working alongside Dockyard-based gallery, display and graphics specialist agency Anchor Signmakers, our Historic Environment and Buildings team has cleaned, painted and re-gilded the arms, using almost 100 books of 24k Carat gold leaf.

Before the precious metal finish was painstakingly applied, years of dirt, grease and debris from every crease and corner of the heraldic crest was carefully removed. The restoration project took six weeks.

Check out the before and after photographs …




Although the gate itself still needs further decoration and repair, the before and after pictures showcase the team’s expert craftmanship. As with all heritage renovations, the piece will be monitored and while some minor paint work is anticipated in five years, the gilding is expected to last until at least 2041.
Over 650 surviving Coade stone sculptures have been traced today, not only across the British Isles but as far afield as Russia, South Africa and Brazil. In later life Eleanor Coade was an active philanthropist, helping those in need – usually women in difficult circumstances.

Find out more about George III’s Coat of Arms in our object of the month blog written by research volunteer, Dave Kirk.

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