The London Coliseum is a much loved London landmark, and home to the English National Opera, fondly known as the ENO. The building was designed by the architect Frank Matcham, for owner/manager Oswald Stoll, and opened in 1904. It’s a wonderful piece of architecture, with a bold silhouette visible from Trafalgar Square.
Diespeker & Co, which was founded in 1881 in Hamburg and expanded into London not long after, is believed to have been responsible for the original mosaic flooring. Look up as you enter the building, though, and you’ll see definitive evidence of our historical connection with the Coliseum.
Above the entrance vestibule is a stunning domed ceiling, decorated with a mosaic-style pattern in gold and red tones with a Roman scene and swan motifs. Although the ceiling looks like mosaic, during restoration work it transpired that it is a painted scene with Diespeker’s glass chips laid over it. Whether Diespeker was responsible for the artwork underneath is unknown.
The London Coliseum was not originally built as an opera house, but as a variety theatre. We like to think that some of the first theatre-goers might have looked up and admired this stunning feature.
Diespeker’s work pops up in a number of interesting and prestigious locations in London; famously the floor mosaic outside the National Portrait Gallery, which opened in 1896.