William Godwin's Diary


Land surveyor and panoramist Thomas Horner’s (1785–1844) Colosseum was a ‘pleasure palace’ containing a panorama – the biggest and most realistic of its time – that featured a facsimile of the view from St Paul’s Cathedral unobscured by London smoke or fog. The purpose-built site by architect Decimus Burton contained a six-columned Doric portico, a 15,000 foot dome painted to represent the sky, and a 46,000 square foot canvas on which was painted an aerial scene of London in the minutest detail from sketches taken by Horner from an observatory created by temporary scaffolding atop St Paul’s Cathedral. The interior also housed a ‘Saloon of Arts’, a ‘Hall of Sculpture’ containing reproductions of the Apollo, the Diana, and the Venus, and paintings by Michelangelo. Using mirrors and other devices, a small garden was transformed into a vast space containing dells, mountains, and cascades. Other features included an inhabitable cottage with illusionistic views of waterfalls and water from the windows, aviaries and a living eagle, and the very first passenger elevator in London that operated by hydraulic power.

Richard Altick, Shows of London.

See also The Times13 January 1829.