The Royal Panopticon

The Royal Panopticon of Science and Art, to give the full title, was one of the grand social institutions and architectural splendours of Victorian London, that is now lost. It was given a Royal Charter in 1850 and in July 1851 a lease was taken out on a premium site for 60 years, and building could commence. The Panopticon was built on the Eastern side of Leicester Square, opening on 18 March 1854. As a showcase venue for the very best achievements in Science and Arts of the time, it attracted 1,000 visitors per day. Two years later however it closed, obtained a license for theatrical performances and was re-opened as the Alhambra Theatre. The site is now occupied by the Odeon Leicester Square.

The Royal Panopticon was an imposing iconic building flanked by 100 ft minarets. This was a very large building for the time. The facade had tiles made by Minton and shields and coats of arms of the most prominent scientists, writers and artists, including Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Humphry Davy and of course Queen Victoria. It boasted that it had the largest organ in the world when it opened, and the organist of the day, Edmund Thomas Chipp gave daily recitals. When the Panopticon closed in 1856 to become a theatre, the organ was sold to St Pauls Cathedral.

Other Information

Built:  1854
Demolished:  1936


  • Leicester Square, London WC2H 7NG, UK


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