Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Museums, Public Buildings and Galleries - The Colosseum

The building bearing this name, in the Regent's Park, is a polygon of sixteen faces, each twenty-five feet in length, making the outer circuit of the building four hundred feet: the front is adorned with a noble Doric portico of six columns, supporting an entablature and pediment; the entablature is continued round the building, supported at each angle by pilasters. Above the entablature is an attic, from which rises the dome, surmounted by a parapet, which forms the front of a gallery, where the spectators ascend to view the surrounding country. This vast structure was erected in three years, from designs by Decimus Burton, Esq.
    The origin of this edifice is singularly curious. Mr. Horner, a meritorious and indefatigable artist and as it should seem a man of great force of character, undertook, at the time of the repair of the ball and cross of St. Paul's, to make a series of panoramic sketches of London, from that giddy elevation. That he might overcome the difficulties which the smoke of the vast city ordinarily presented, he invariably commenced his labours immediately after sun-rise, before the lighting of the innumerable fires which pour out their dark and sullen clouds during the day, and spread a mantle over this wide congregation of the dwellings of men, which only midnight can remove. On a fine summer morning, about four o'clock, London presents an extraordinary spectacle. The brilliancy of the atmosphere - the almost perfect stillness of the streets, except in the neighbourhood of the great markets - the few living beings that pass along those lines which in the day are crowded like some vast mart, such as the traveller hurrying to his distant starting-place, or the labourer creeping to his early work - all these circumstances make up a picture which forcibly impresses the imagination.
    What the artist who sketched this panorama saw only in the earliest hours of a brilliant morning, the visitor of the Colosseum may behold in all seasons, and all hours of the day.

N.Whittock, Picture of London, 1836

see also Punch, 1843 - click here

Colosseum, The ... This exhibition, one of the most beautiful in London, is open every day, Sundays excepted, from 10 till dusk. Admission to each part 1s.

The Colosseum is, as its name implies, a building of immense proportions. This vast structure was commenced in 1824 and completed in 1827, under the direct superintendence of Mr. Decimus Burton; its substance is brick, faced with cement, tinted to imitate stone. The interior is judiciously disposed into a saloon, where works of art are exhibited, and galleries for viewing the splendid panorama of London. This latter exhibition is a very extraordinary performance, alike remarkable for its extent and fidelity of representation: it occupies nearly an acre of canvass, painted under the superintendence of Mr. Parris, from sketches made by Mr. Horner in 1821, from St. Paul's, at the time when repairs were going on above the dome of that cathedral. By the aid of machinery that carries a moveable room through the centre of the building, the visiter is raised to a level with the summit of the panorama, and thus spared the trouble of mounting a staircase A model of the cross of St. Paul's, and the original ball, are retained at the Colosseum. The gardens surrounding the Colosseum are laid out so as to appear much more extensive than they really are, and comprise conservatories, waterfalls, fountains, a Swiss cottage, a marine cave and grotto, all of beautiful construction.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

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THE CHALET, MER DE GLACE, MONT BLANC &c

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THE GYPOTHECA, OR MUSEUM OF SCULPTURE

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DECAYING GREEK TEMPLE WITH ITALIAN FOUNTAIN

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THE CONSERVATORY

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TEMPLE OF VESTA, ITALIAN RUINS AND FOUNTAIN

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GROTTO

RE-OPENING OF THE COLOSSEUM, REGENT'S PARK

    It is now nearly sixteen years since this vast establishment was first opened for exhibition; and during that period it has been visited by more than a million persons. Circumstances, much to be regretted, prevented it being opened originally in a complete state; and when the property changed hands in 1835, some alterations were made which did not elevate its character as a place of public amusement. Its attraction, consequently declined, until it appeared probable that this magnificent edifice would be taken down, and private dwelling-houses erected on its site. At thus juncture, the property was purchased by its present owner, who considered it possible that, with judicious alterations, improvements and additions, the Colosseum might altogether by restored to public favour. In this hope, he consulted Mr. Bradwell, whose taste and skill in decorative art and scenic effects are well known; and this gentleman having designed plans for remodelling and renovating the entire establishment, they have been executed solely under his direction, by the most eminent artists. It is, at present, arranged that the whole will be opened for exhibition early in the ensuing week. In the meantime, we shall introduce to our readers two of the principal novelties: The Mountain Scenery, or Model, in the rear of the main polygonal building; and the new Sculpture Hall in its basement.
    The First Illustration shows a portion of the Exterior of the Chalet, or Swiss Cottage, with the Mer de Glace, and the snow-clad peak of Mont Blanc; whilst the Mountain Torrent on the left, leaping over the nearest rocks, comes roaring down the precipes; and after forming a small lake in front of the cottage windows, overflows its stony basin, and, with a second fall, disappears in the gulf below. This is, unquestionably, the finest specimen of Model Scenery executed in this country . . . by the artist, Mr. Danson.
    Our second scene shows the Glypotheca, or the Museum of Sculpture, an entirely new building, designed and erected by Mr. Bradwell. Those who remember what this apartment was as the Saloon of Arts, cannot fail to be struck with its complete transformation. In lieu of the calico draperies, which had the appearance of a large tent, temporarily fitted up, the visitor now beholds a lofty dome of several thousand feet of richly-cut glass, springing from an entablature and cornice supported by numerous columns. The frieze is enriched with the whole of the Panathenaic procession from the Elgin marbles, and is continued without interruption throughout the entire circumference of the hall, above which are 20 fresco painting of allegorical subjects on panels; the mouldings, cornices, capitals of columns, and enrichments being all in gold, modelled by Mr. Henning, jun.; painted by Mr. Absalom. Beyond the circle of columns is another of as many pilasters, dividing and supporting arched recesses. in each of which, as well as between the columns, are placed works of art from the chisels of some of the most eminent foreign and British sculptors. In the centre of the building is the circular framework inclosing the staircase leading to the Panorama; this hung with a classically-disposed drapery, from the summit of the arched dome to the floor concealing the stairs, and harmonising with the prevailing tints of the architectural decorations. Around this are seats covered with rich Utrecht velvet, raised on a dais, and divided by groups of Cupid and Psyche supporting candelebras in the form of palm-trees; the figures white, and the draperies, leaves, plumes &c., heightened with gold. Various other figures support branches for lights around the outer circle and the whole, whether viewed by daylight, or illuminated in the evening, is a fascinating coup d'oeuil. The figures, we should add, are tastefully modelled by Mr. Henning, jun. From this hall the public will have, as formerly, the choice of two modes of ascent to the first gallery, to view the Panorama; either by the spiral staircase, just mentioned, or by the Ascending Room ...

RE-OPENING OF THE COLOSSEUM, REGENT'S PARK

We resume our anticipatory survey of the artistic novelties just completed at this very popular exhibition; and request the reader to accompany us to the eastern entrance in Albany-street, which is entirely new. The main addition seen from she street is a vast apartment, lighted with several lofty windows; the appropriation of the saloon is not precisely known; but the walls, we are informed, will bear some extraordinary triumph of scenic skill.
   
North of this new Saloon you enter by large folding-doors, and pass into a square vestibule; thence, to the left, into a nobly arched corridor, reminding the Italian tourist of the entrance into the Vatican. This corridor is lighted, during the day, from above, by several circles of cut and ground glass; and at night by 26 bronze tripods. Descending to the basement by easy fights of steps, you enter a spacious apartment, supported by columns and pilasters, and adorned by brilliant glass chandeliers. This saloon will be appropriated for the sale of refreshments. At the north end, ornamented glass doors communicate with the Swiss Cottage; and at the south, into the Conversatories and Promenade. . . . 
    The Conservatories have ever been the most aristocratic feature of the Colosseum Exhibition: the vast picture of London and its acre of canvas, may be more imposing than the airy elegance of the Conservatories; but, to an inborn Londoner, the fairly-like assemblage of flowers, fountains, and picturesque embellishments, have proved the most enchanting novelty . . . The Conservatories, then, have been entirely reconstructed and refilled: they are now most elaborately decorated in the Arabesque style; and the architecture is a tasteful combination of the Moorish and the Gothic: it is furnished with the choicest flowers and shrubs, both native and foreign: and in the centre is a Gothic Aviary, superbly fitted up with gilt carvings, and looking-glass . . . Here you may really almost forget the working-day-world amidst the murmur of sparkling fountains, the songs of gaily-plumed birds, the fragrance of exotic plants and flowers and the beautiful forms and freshness of the embellishments. . . .
    Leaving the Conservatories by a glass door, we emerge into what is termed "the Exterior Promenade," where Mr. Bradwell, the ingenious designer, has pictured a chaos of classic relics of the antique world, and of luxuriant, but mouldering, beauty . . . the designer has not attempted to copy rigidly any monument of antiquity; although the classical traveller and artist will be reminded of the Temple of Vesta and the Arch of Titus at Rome, and the Temple of Theseus at Athens; their relative proportions being disregarded. "A secondary object has been to show how much effect may be produced in a most limited space, and with, apparently, the least promising materials - blank walls, the backs of adjacent buildings, &c - which it is not always possible to plant out, or otherwise screen from observation." In the latter respect, we consider Mr. Bradwell has been pre-eminently successful.
    The first of our scenes groups the decaying Greek Temple, with the Italian Fountain. The second illustration shows the Temple of Vesta . . . Next is a vignette of Italian scenery . . . The larger engraving on the same page with the two latter shows, perhaps, the most novel triumph of the artist's skill; it being a large model of the celebrated Stalactite Cavern, at Adelsberg, in Carniola, on the great road to Vienna. . . .  The entrance to the cave is by a wooden door, as at Adelsberg. The long gallery is passed through, and you enter "the vestibule," "the large rugged unequal grotto,"  from which you behold, branching in every direction, the apparently interminable succession of caverns, lighted by "the uncouth chandeliers," single candles or wood fires, kindled by the peasantry for the celebration of their annual festival, and which, glancing up the spars and dropping crystals of the cavern, produce a splendid scene. The visitor will observe the faint twinkling of lights at distances the the most from which such lights could be discerned - above, through the countless arches, formed in the sparry roof, the eye seeks in vain to ascertain the altitude of the still ascending columns and pinnacles. The illusion of height and distance is complete, and "the deep, cold, clear lake," (formed by the waters of "the river Poicte, which flows right across the cavern, and having reached the opposite wall of this immense vault, again dives into the bowels of the earth"), reflecting the gorgeous scene, and fading away through the blue mist into impenetrable darkness, terminates a series of exquisitely magical effects. The day on which the subterranean festival takes place is Whit-Monday.
    We have only space to mention that the grand Panorama of the Metropolis, which covers the interior walls of the great polygonal building, has been almost entirely repainted by Mr. Parris, who, in 1829, completed the picture projected and commenced by Mr. Horner. Thus renovated, this panorama will be a great attraction: but there has been added "A New Panorama of London by Night," which affords a faithful picture of the modern Babylon, under an aspect, to which its citizens at large, or its visitors, must to such an extent, at least, be utter strangers. The new picture is essentially the same as the day view: it has, however, no support from the wall on which the day view is painted behind it, but has to be erected and illuminated every evening, after the close of the morning exhibition, so that the mechanical difficulties must have been very great. The streets, public buildings &c. of "the mighty heart" are the same and seen from the same point of view, as those in the morning exhibition; but, the illusion is, perhaps, more successful; for it is scarcely possible for any person to lean over the balustrade for five or six minutes, and mark the fleecy clouds sailing steadily along, lighted as they come within the influence of the large hazy moon, struggling upward through the smoke of the great city, and then hiding from sight, or occasionally obscuring the stars, that twinkle her and there, in the apparently illimitable space, it is next to impossible they can, after such contemplation, recall themselves immediately to the conviction that the whole is but a scenic model. Add to this the reflection of the innumerable lights upon the bridges in the river, and that of the moon, as the flow of the tide occasionally causes the ripple to catch, for a moment, and lose again as speedily, its silvery beams - the brilliancy of the shops in Cheapside and on Ludgate-hill - the coloured light of the chemists' shops in all directions - the flaring naked gas in the open stalls and markets - the cold pale moonlight on the windows of Christ-church Hospital, and other high or isolated buildings - and nothing short of reality can equal the amazing coup d'oeuil before one.

from The Illustrated London News, April 26 & May 3, 1845

PUNCH'S VISIT TO THE COLOSSEUM.

    THIS splendid pile of architectural stucco, which rears it, proud dome of zinc towards a Regent's Parkian sky, was on the eve of being crumbled to atoms beneath the hammer of the auctioneer, when it was suddenly snatched from its impending fate by the hand of a capitalist and the eye of an artist. The classic ground on which the Colosseum stands was about to be actually covered with ordinary houses, and a row of common-place structures would have filled the spot hallowed by the truly Roman recollection, which extend from the Camera Obscura, on the south, to the Lodge, on the north, of the Colosseum. Fortunately, however, the classic eye of BRADWELL saw the site, and wept its expected desecration. He could not bear the horrible idea of kitchen sinks and wash-house pumps standing on the ground where the Swiss Cottage and the indomitable Eagle had been so often seen. BRADWELL recollected the prediction- 
        "While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand"
and it occurred to him that the stability of London might depend on the same contingency. There can be no doubt that unless the Colosseum in the Regent's Park continues to stand, London, which is exhibited inside, must inevitably perish; Thanks to a spirited capitalist, who summoned the genius of BRADWELL to his aid, the Colosseum has, not only been restored to all its original stability, but made to surpass in splendour and taste anything that Eastern or Western magnificence can display. We may in vain turn our eye with the weathercock to every point of the compass, for "we shall never look upon its like," or anything like its like, "again."
   
On entering the portico, and turning to the left, we get into . corridor, which we may, if we like, fancy is the entrance to the Vatican.
   
Having dropped a tear over the fate of the six unfortunate popes, we rush forward into the refreshment-room, and seek consolation in Bath-buns and cherry-brandy. We next find ourselves in the Glyptotheca, or Museum of Sculpture, formerly called the Saloon of Arts, from its having been artfully covered in with calico: the old Saloon of Arts used to be pitch dark, and was well supplied with old newspapers, which, as it was impossible to see to read them, were as good as new to the visitors. The magic wand of BRADWELL has effected a truly fairy change; and in place of the old original temporary booth of pink cotton, we have now a magnificent circular saloon, fitted up with works of  sculpture from the studios of some of the most eminent sculptors. But while the mind may feast, our physical refreshment has not been neglected, , for there peeps from beneath the tapestry  - nestling under tasteful hangings of silk - a snug little stall, where the joyous Banbury, and the cheerful jam-puff may be had by asking - and paying - for.
   
But let us look at some of the works of art. There is CANUTE reproving his courtiers, as he sits in a pair of wash-leather highlows on the margin of the ocean. A sprinkling of periwinkles, and an odd cockle-shell or two on the ground, tell the story that his majesty is on the beach, and that the tide is coming up rather rapidly. Then there is Lord BACON, looking as corpulent as he ought, for if "learning makes a full man," BACON must have been as fat as the sculptor has made him. There is a beautiful statue of our old friend CHAUCER, with nothing on .him but a sheet and a pair of slippers, as if a bright idea had occurred to him before he got up, and he bad sprung out of bed for the purpose of "booking it." But who can doubt the likeness of that old gentleman with the jack- chain suspended to his wrists? It is, it must be, CARACTACUS, for when we see a man in -othing but a shirt and some fetters, we always know it must be the hero alluded to.
   
A little further on we come to RICHARD COEUR DE LION, planting the Standard of England on the walls of Acre. As the gardening book says in October, "Now plant your Standards," we presume it was in the month alluded to, that RICHARD COEUR DE LION did his little bit of historical gardening.
       
But how shall we approach the statue of BROUGHAM, when even his bust is an object of our reverence! If we bow to his mere head and shoulders, what shall we say to him altogether, sitting in a pair of Margate slippers, with a guinea dressing-gown thrown over his shoulders, and a copy of some work lying at his feet, as if he had dropped it out of his hand from having fallen asleep over it.
   
Among the works of art, we find a design for the NELSON Monument, - which is almost as good as-
        The affair
   
     In the Square
   
     Of the great Trafalgar ho!
It shows NEPTUNE handing up a wreath on the end of a toasting-fork to  BRITTANIA, who offers it to NELSON; but as he has got his hands full of swords and flags, he of course is unable to take it. It is a graceful notion gracefully executed.
   
Having examined the sculpture, we take our places in the Ascending Room, and commence our aerial flight to the summit of St. Paul's, and step into the outer gallery. There is London by day, but ere a few hours have passed, London by night will extinguish it. The effect of this latter picture is so wonderful, that a visitor would not believe the sky to be artificial, and insisted, that the twinkling luminaries had been engaged to star it expressly for the occasion.
   
If BRADWELL can only make such another moon, and lend it out to us, to be placed in the back yard that looks upon our garret window, we will give him any money - that we can spare - for the use of it. He might assuredly take out a patent for perpetual moonlight all through the year. And when we see his real moon made of nothing but canvas, we begin to hare some faith in the project for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers. 
    But now let us pause. We have walked out into the property temples that surround the building. MARIUS among the ruins of Carthage is a fool to Punch among the ruins at the Colosseum. To make some of the ruins of antiquity, Time has lent a slow hand; but here we have classical associations and columns knocked up, or rather knocked down, in no time. We almost smiled - if we could allow ourselves to smile when under the shadow of the tottering pillars around us - we almost smiled at the request to the public "not to touch the ruins." If it is desirable to have a ruinous effect, surely it would be in accordance with the genius loci if the visitors were to begin ruining the ruins around them.
   
Let us wander now into the Gothic aviary, where we may fancy ourselves in the land of the CID. But lo! the old parrot on the left is making a peek at our coat. Let us get out of the land of the CID as rapidly as possible.
   
We find ourselves in the Swiss Cottage, looking out upon Mont Blanc, the Monarch of Mountains.
   
     "They crown'd him a year ago
   
     With some canvas thin, well covered in
   
     With a lot of property snow."
    While looking out upon the scene before us, we wonder how the effect of distance can possibly be obtained, for it has been accomplished at a total sacrifice of all the established rules of land measurement.
   
The ordinary pole and perch are completely annihilated, and goats perch on places supported by poles at a distance that seems terrific, but is in reality nothing. We could fancy ourselves hunting the sham chamois, or gliding along the glaciers, as we stood on tiptoe, looking over the balustrades of that Swiss balcony. We could not help asking ourselves, the question - 
    Where is the eagle? When Echo, in the shape of the attendant at the refreshment-stall, answered, "Dead." We understand it cried its eyes out in the year 1840, and shed its tail in 1841. Since which time no tidings have been heard of it.
   
We have now seen everything but the Stalactite Caverns, of which we can only say, that they are better than the real thing at Adelberg. ELLISTON'S Coronation at Drury Lane was, as every one knows, a great deal more splendid that GEORGE IV.'s opposition at Westminster Abbey. and BRADWELL'S Stalactite Cavern at the Colosseum surpasses in stalacticity and splendour the German original.
    In conclusion, we have to recommend every one heartily, if he has four shillings to spare, to pay a visit to the Colosseum. If he has not four shillings to spare, let him come to us, and if he can give us good security, and a hundred per cent. interest in advance, with a small bonus in addition when the principal is repaid, we will lend him the money.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1845

I have mentioned the Adelaide Gallery and the Polytechnic Institution, and there were many other exhibition-places eminently respectable and popular in my youthful days, which have since been done away with, and the very names of which are now scarcely heard. Foremost of these was the Coliseum, on the east side of the Regent's Park, covering the space now occupied, I should say, by Cambridge Gate to the front and Coliseum Terrace to the rear-an enormous polygon, a hundred and twenty-six feet in diameter, and over a hundred feet high, built from the designs of Decimus Burton, whose best-known work nowadays is the Marble Arch. The industrious John Timbs, in his Curiosities of London, tells us that the Coliseum -or Colosseum, as he spells it - was so called from its colossal size, and not from any supposed resemblance to its namesake in Rome. But this spoils the story of the not too cultured cornet in the Blues, who from Rome wrote to his friend, "I see they've got a Coliseum here, too; but it is not in such good repair as that one near our Albany Street Barracks." I remember it well - my father, in partnership with John Braham, once owned it, to his sorrow - with its wonderful panoramas of London by day and London by night, best things of the kind until eclipsed by the "Siege of Paris" in the Champs Elysées; its glyptotheca, full of plaster casts; its Swiss chalet, with a real waterfall, and a melancholy old eagle flopping about its "property" rocks; its stalactite cavern, prepared by Bradwell and Telbin; and its sham ruins near the desolate portico.* (* The gallery from which the vast panoramas of London were inspected was reached by a spiral staircase, and also by the "ascending room," the precursor of the "lifts," "elevators," and "ascenseurs," now to be found in every European and American hotel.) In a small dark tank in the interior of the building I once skated on some artificial ice; and there was a lecture-theatre, in which I found myself, just before the final doom of the establishment (I had come in for shelter from a rain-storm), one of an audience of three listening to an entertainment given by a little gentleman, who was nothing daunted by the paucity of his appreciators, and who sang and danced away as if we had been three thousand. This plucky neophyte, then very young, has since developed into that excellent actor, Mr. Edward Righton.
   
To the Coliseum, some years before its final fall, was added the Cyclorama - an extraordinarily realistic representation of the earthquake of Lisbon. The manner in which the earth heaved and was rent, the buildings toppled over, and the sea rose, was most cleverly contrived, and had a most terrifying effect upon the spectators; frightful rumblings, proceeding apparently from under your feet, increased the horror, which was anything but diminished by accompanying musical performances on that awful instrument, the apollonicon. Never was better value in fright given for money.

Edmund Yates, His Recollections and Experiences, 1885
[chapter on 1847-1852]

COLOSSEUM (THE), in the REGENT'S PARK. Built (1824) by Decimus Burton, for Mr. Hornor, a land-surveyor, who made the sketches of the panorama of London from the top of St. Paul's, afterwards finished by Mr. E.T. Paris and his assistants, on 46,000 square feet of canvas. The name was suggested, I suppose, by the colossal size of the building, for its form resembles the Pantheon at Rome and not the Colosseum. It is used as an exhibition, and was sold, May 11th, 1843, for 23,000 guineas. It will well repay a visit.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

COLOSSEUM in the Regent's Park, called also the Cyclorama, a large circular edifice, with a massive portico in the Doric style of architecture. is a public exhibition, and contains a view of London upon a large scale, as it would appear from an elevated position, such as from St. Paul's, In addition there are conservatories of the choicest plants and flowers; fountains, with every fashionable amusement and recreation, natural and artificial, together with a saloon, containing works of the Fine Arts &c.. and is splendid concert room, the entrance to which is in Albany Street. The prices of admission vary. . . . The most considerable building erected in London for public shows, and therefore not inaptly named, though unfortunately; as the comparison with its huge and substantial namesake was uncalled for by the most distant resemblance of form, and must raise expectations in strangers, only to disappoint them. The chief portion and that first built in 1824 is a domed rotunda, 120ft in diameter, and the same in height, to which is attached on the west an entrance portico, so that the whole resembles a miniature of the Pantheon, except that the portico is Doric, with only six columns, which are said to be exact full-sized models of those of the Parthenon; but the reduction of the eight-columned to a six-columned facade, without making any other change in the proportions, has destroyed the symmetry; and, as usual, the stripping this sublime style to a bare skeleton, the representation of this denuded remnant in plaster sham grandeur, and then its prostitution to the purpose of a show, has exceeded the true bounds of the burlesque, and altogether failed to please.
    The rotunda was intended for exhibiting a truly admirable panoramic view of London, taken from the top of St. Paul's, the sketches by a Mr. Horner, who projected the speculation, but was ruined by it, and the painting by Mr. E.T.Parris. The most elaborate work (presenting the rare combination of minute detail with a truth of effect amounting to deception) is now hidden by other panoramas changed about once in two years, the present one representing the Lake of Thun. There are a variety of other scenic arrangements well worthy a visit, and the apparent extent given by them to a very small piece of ground is remarkable. Round the ground floor of the rotunda is a gallery of casts of sculpture, and in the new building next Albany Street, an extremely elegant and classic room for exhibiting cycloramas, or moving landscapes, of which the present represents the Tagus from its mouth to Lisbon.

London Exhibited in 1852

COLOSSEUM (THE).

 THE Colosseum, upon the east side of the Regent's-park, was originally planned by land-surveyor and the building was commenced for him 1824, by Peto and Grissell, from the designs of Decimus Burton. The chief portion is a polygon of sixteen faces, 126 feet in diameter externally, the walls being 3 feet thick at the ground; and the height to the glazed dome is 112 feet. Fronting the west is an entrance portico, with six Grecian-Doric fluted columns, said to be full-sized models of those of the Parthenon. The external dome is supported by a hemispherical dome, constructed of ribs formed of thin deals in thicknesses, breaking joint and bolted together, on the principle educed by M. Philibert de l'Orme in the 14th century, and stated to be introduced here for the first time in England. The second dome also supports a third, which forms a ceiling of the picture, to be presently described. The building resembles a miniature of the Pantheon, and has been named from its colossal size, and not from any resemblance to the Colosseum at Rome; but it more closely resembles the Roman Catholic Church at Berlin.* (* In 1769, there was constructed in the Champs Elysées, at Paris, a vast building called Le Coliseé, for fetes in honour of the marriage of the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XVI. Here were dances, hydraulics, pyrotechnics, &c.; the building did not resemble the Pantheon, as ours in the Regent's-park, but the Colosseum at Rome. It contained a rotunda, saloons, and circular galleries, skirted with shops, besides trellis-work apartments and four cafés. In the centre of Le Cirque was a vast basin of water, with fountains; beyond which fireworks were displayed. The whole edifice was completely covered with green trellis-work; the entire space occupied by the buildings, courts, and gardens, was sixteen acres; and the cost was two and a half millions of money. There were prize exhibitions of pictures; and Mr. Homer projected similar displays at the Colosseum, but the idea was not taken up by the British artists. In 1778, the Parisian building was closed, and two years afterwards was taken down. It is mentioned by Dr. Johnson, in his Tour, in 1775.)
   
The building is lighted entirely by the glazed dome, there being no side windows. Upon the canvassed walls was painted the Panoramic View of London, completed in 1829; for which Mr. Homer, in 1821-2, made the sketches at several feet above the present cross of St. Paul's Cathedral (as described at p. 115). The view of the picture was obtained from two galleries: the first corresponds, in relation to the prospect, with the first gallery at the summit of the dome of St. Paul's;. the second with the upper gallery of the cathedral. Upon this last gallery is placed the identical copper ball which formerly occupied the summit of St. Paul's; above it is a fac-simile of the cross; and over these is hung the small wooden cabin in which Mr. Homer made his drawings. A small flight of stairs leads from this spot to the open parapet gallery which surrounds the domed roof of the Colosseum. The communication with the galleries is by spiral staircases, built on the outside of a lofty cylindrical core in the centre of the rotunda; within which is also the "Ascending Room,£ capable of containing ten or twelve persons. This chamber is decorated in the Elizabethan style, and lighted through a stained-glass ceiling; it is raised by secret machinery to the required elevation, or gallery, whence the company viewed the panorama. The hoisting mechanism is a long shaft connected with a steam-engine outside the building, working a chain upon a drum-barrel, and counterbalanced by two other chains, the ascending motion being almost imperceptible.
   
The painting of the picture was a marvel of art. It covers upwards of 46,000 square feet, or more than an acre of canvas; the dome on which the sky is painted is 30 feet more in diameter than the cupola of St. Paul's; and the circumference of the horizon from the point of view is nearly 130 miles. Excepting the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, there is no painted surface in Great Britain to compare with this in magnitude or shape, and even that offers but a small extent in comparison. It is inferred that the scaffolding used for constructing St. Paul's cupola was left for Sir James Thornhill, in painting the interior; and his design consisted of several compartments, each complete in itself. Not so this Panorama of London, which, as one subject, required unity, harmony, accuracy of linear and aerial perspective; the commencement and finishing of lines, colours, and forms, and their nice unity; the perpendicular canvas and concave ceiling of stucco was not to be seen by, or even known to, the spectator; and the union of a horizontal and vertical surface, though used, was not to be detected. After the sketches were completed upon 2000 sheets of paper, and the building finished, no individual could be found to paint the picture in a sufficiently short period, and many artists were of necessity employed: thus, by the use of platforms slung by ropes, with baskets for conveying the colours, temporary bridges, and other ingenious contrivances, the painting was executed, but in the peculiar style, taste, and notion of each artist; to reconcile which, or bring them to form one vast whole, was a novel, intricate, and hazardous task, which many persons tried, but ineffectually. At length, Mr. E. T. Parris, possessing an accurate knowledge of mechanics and perspective, and practical execution in painting, combined with great enthusiasm and perseverance, accomplished the labour principally with his own hands; standing in a cradle or box, suspended from cross poles or shears, and lifted as required, by ropes.
   
The Panorama was viewed from a balustraded gallery, with a projecting frame beneath it, in exact imitation of the outer dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, the perspective and light and shade of the campanile towers in the western front being admirably managed. The spectator was recommended to take four distinct stations in the gallery, and then inspect in succession the views towards the north, east, south, and west; altogether representing the Metropolis of 1821, the date of the sketches.

The North comprises Newgate-market, the old College of Physicians, Christ's Hospital (before the rebuilding of the Great Hall), St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and Smithfield Market; and the New General Post-Office, then building. These are the objects near the foreground: beyond them arc Clerkenwell, the Charterhouse, and the lines of Goswell-street, St. John-street, Pentonville, Islington, and Hoxton. In the next, or third distance, are Primrose-hill, Chalk Farm, Hampstead, and a continued line of wooded hills to Highgate, where are the bold Archway and the line of the Great North Road from Islington; whilst Stamford-hill, Muswell-hihl, part of Epping Forest, and portions of Essex, Hertfordshire, and Middlesex bound the horizon.
   
The East displays a succession of objects all differing from the former view in effect, character, and associations. Whilst the north exhibits the rustic scenery of the environs of London, the east presents us with the Thames, and its massive warehouses and spacious docks; the one a scene of rural quiet, the other a focus of commercial activity. In the foreground is St. Paul's School-house; whilst the lines of Cheapside, Cornhill, Leadenhall-street, and Whitechapel carry the eye through the very heart of the City, and thence to Bow, Stratford, and a fine tract of woodlands, in Essex. On the right and left of this line are the towers and steeples of Bow Church, St. Mary Woolnoth; St. Michael, Corn-hill; St. Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, and others of subordinate height; the Bank, Mansion-house, Royal Exchange (since destroyed by fire), East India House, and several of the Companies' Halls. Another line, nearly parallel, but a little to the east, extends through Watling-street (the old Roman road) to Cannon-street, Tower-street, and the prison, palace, fortress, and museum - the Tower. The course of the Thames, with its vessels and wilderness of masts, the docks and warehouses on its banks: the palace- hospital of Greenwich and the beautiful country beyond it, contrasted with the levels of the Essex bank- are all defined in this direction.
   
Southward, the eye traces the undulating line of the Surrey hills in the distance; and in the fore- part of the picture the Thames, with its countless craft, among which are civic barges and steamers, characteristic of ancient and modern London. Here also are shown old London-bridge, and Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, and Vauxhall Bridges, whilst the river-banks are crowded with interesting structures, among which are the old Houses of Parliament.
   
The Western view presents a new and different series of objects. First, in effect, in beauty of execution and imposing character, are the two campanili, the pediment, and the roof of the western end, of St. Paul's Cathedral. The painting here is masterly and magical; it so deceives the eye and the imagination, that the spectator can scarcely believe these towers to be depicted on the same canvas and the same surface as the whole line of objects from Ludgate Hill to St. James's-Park. This view to the west embraces the long lines of Ludgate-hill, Fleet-street, and the Strand, Piccadilly, &c.; Holborn-hill and Oxford-street, with the Inns of Court; Westminster; numerous churches and public buildings, right and left; and Hyde-park, Kensington-gardens, and a long stretch of flat country to Windsor.- Brief Account, by John Britton, F.S.A., 1829.

    A staircase leads to the upper gallery, whence the spectator again commanded the whole picture in a sort of bird's-eye view. Another flight of stairs communicates with the room containing the copper ball and fac-simile cross of St. Paul's. A few more steps conduct to the outer gallery at the summit; where, in fine weather, the spectator might compare the colouring, perspective, and effects of nature with those of art within.
   
The Panorama was first exhibited in the spring of 1829. It was almost repainted by Mr. Parris in 1845; when also a Panorama of London by Night, essentially the same as the day view, was exhibited in front of the latter, and bad to be erected and illuminated every evening: the moonlight effect upon the rippling river; the floating, fleecy clouds and twinkling stars; the lights upon the bridges, in the shops, and in the open markets, formed a rare triumph of artistic illusion. In May, 1848, a moonlight Panorama of Paris, of the same dimensions as the night view of London, was painted by Danson, and was very attractive in illustration of the localities of the recent Revolution. In 1850, both views gave way to a Panorama of the Lake of Thun, in Switzerland, painted in tempera by Danson and Son; and in 1851, the Panorama of London was reproduced as a more appropriate sight for visitors during the International Exhibition season.
   
The Picture, however, was but one of the many features of the Colosseum. The basement of the Rotunda has a superb Ionic colonnade, as a sculpture-gallery, named the Glyptotheca: the columns and entablature are richly gilt; and the frieze, nearly 300 feet in circumference, is adorned with bhas-reliefs from the Panthenaic friezes of the Parthenon, exquisitely modelled by Henning; the ribbed roof being filled with embossed glass.
   
Southward and eastward of the Rotunda are large Conservatories, a Swiss chalet, and mountain scenery interspersed with real water: these were executed by Mr. Hornor, whose enthusiasm led him to project a tunnel beneath the Regent's-park road, and to anticipate a grant from the opposite enclosure to be added to the Colosseum grounds. But the ingenious projector failed: the property passed into the hands of trustees; after which it lost much of its status as a place of public amusement; but on May 11, 1843, it was bought for 23,000 guineas by Mr. David Montague, who altogether retrieved and elevated the artistic character of the establishment.
   
The Colosseum, as altered, with the exception of the Panorama, was principally executed in 1845, from the designs of the late Mr. W. Bradwell, formerly chief machinist of Covent Garden Theatre. The eastern entrance, in Albany-street, was then added, with an arched corridor in the style of the Vatican, and leading to the Glyptotheca, the Arabesque Conservatories, and the Gothic Aviary, the exterior promenade, with its model ruins of the Temple of Vesta and Arch of Titus, the Temple of Theseus, and golden pinnacles and eastern domes, -  chaos of classic relics of the antique world. A romantic pass leads to the chalet, or Swiss Cottage, originally designed by P. F. Robinson: the roof, walls, and projecting fireplace are fancifully carved; and the bay-window looks upon a mass of rock-scenery, a mountain-torrent and lake, - a model picture of the sublime. In another direction lies a large model of the Stalactite Cavern at Adelsberg, in Carniola; constructed by Bradwell and Telbin.
   
At Christmas, 1848, was added a superb theatre, with a picturesque rustic armoury as an ante-room. The spectatory, designed and erected by Bradwell, resembles the vestibule of a regal mansion fitted up for the performance of a masque: it is decorated with colossal Sienna columns, and copies of three of Raphael's cartoons in time Vatican (School of Athens, and Constantine and the Pope), by Homer, of Rathbone-place; the ceilings are gorgeously painted with allegorical groups; and upon the fronts of the boxes is a Bacchanalian procession, in richly-gilt relief. Upon the stage passed the Cyclorama of Lisbon, depicting in ten scenes the terrific spectacle of time great earthquake of 1755- the uplifting sea and o'ertopping city, and all the frightful devastation of flood and fire; accompanied by characteristic performances upon Bevington's Apollonicon. The scenes are painted by Danson, in the manner of Loutherbourg's Eidophusicon, which not only anticipated, but in part surpassed, our present dioramas. The entire exhibition has long been closed.
   
In March, 1855, the Colosseum, with the Cyclomama, were put up to auction by the Messrs. Winstanley. It was then stated that the Colosseum was erected at a cost of 23,000l. for Mr. Thomas Hornor, who held a lease of it direct from the Crown, at a ground rent of 262l. 18s. for a period of ninety-nine years, sixty-nine of which were unexpired on the 10th of October, 1854. He subsequently expended above 100,000l. to carry out the objects for which it was intended, by decorating the interior, purchasing pictures, &c. In August, 1836, the lease was sold to Messrs. Braham and Yates. Mr. Braham laid out about 50,000l. on the building, which in a few years afterwards became the property of Mr. Turner, who added the Cyclorama, which cost 20,000l., to the establishment, with many decorations, at several thousand pounds' expense; so that the entire edifice has cost above 200,000l. The sum of 20,000l. was bid, but the property was not sold.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

The Colosseum, is on the east side of Regent's Park, with an entrance from Albany-street. The building is after the general design of the Pantheon at Rome. It was built in 1824, and is polygonal in form, surmounted by a glazed cupola. It is no longer used as a place of amusement, though it was for years celebrated for its panoramas of London and other cities, dioramas, dissolving views, conservatories, Gothic aviary, Temple of Theseus, Swiss Cottage, &c.

Routledge's Popular Guide to London, [c.1873]

Old and New London, c.1880