Henry Wallis, The Coliseum, Regent's Park, 1827, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

 

In the 1820s, Severndroog’s visibility on London’s skyline ensured its inclusion in what probably remains the largest painting ever made. In 1821–22, the artist Thomas Hornor had drawn a detailed, 360-degree panoramic view of London and its surroundings from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. Hornor planned to paint the panorama onto the interior of a vast new dome that he intended to build in Regent’s Park. Hornor’s London Colosseum was built over the next three years. In 1825, he engaged the artist Edmund Thomas Parris to paint the panorama. Parris worked on the painting with several assistants, designing new equipment to overcome the technical difficulties of painting a curved surface over seventy feet in the air. The panorama, which was largely complete by 1829, covered a colossal forty thousand square feet and was visited by over a million people over the following sixteen years. The Colosseum has been credited with possessing the first passenger lift in England, which took visitors to a viewing platform in the centre of the building’s dome, from which they could experience the enormous painting. Though the panorama itself was tragically lost when the Colosseum was demolished in 1874, Severndroog’s presence in it is confirmed by one of a series of prints that were produced to map the panorama's contents. The key to this print labels Severndroog as ‘The Tower on Shooter’s Hill’. Because of its tiny scale the castle is only just visible in the print, but it would have occupied as much as a foot of Hornor's and Parris's original painting. Parris himself clearly found the castle’s appearance inspiring. Twenty years after he had finished work on the Colosseum, he visited Eltham and made the large drawing of Severndroog shown below.

 

 

 

Edmund Thomas Parris, 'Severndroog Castle, Shooter's Hill, from near Eltham', 1849, Private Collection.

© Jonathan Taylor.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Hornor, Edmund Thomas Parris and the Regent's Park Colosseum