Thomas Allom worked extensively as an architect, and was a founder member of RIBA. Stolid and stately buildings don’t prepare you for his visual invention, animation ,conveying mood and narrative in his parallel careers, working with the publisher Virtue and also Heath on illustrating travel books. He contributed a wealth of urban and landscape studies of United Kingdon venues such as Cumberland , the West Country and here, Scotland (2 volumes). He also generated popular views in Turkey, and without going there, four volumes of views in China.

The two parts of his career were united in architectural realisations of a high visual order, particularly work for Charles Barry relating to the Houses of Parliament.

Born in London in 1804 to parents from Suffolk. His father was a coachman, and his early career progressed solely through his native talents as a draftsman. He trained as an architect under Francis Goodwin, and also at the Royal Academy Schools. He was, however, forty two old before he saw any of his designs realised.

Caledonia Illustrated comes in 2 volumes, and my copy of Volume 2 has 97 steel engraved illustrations. What might at first promise the usual bland constructions of Loch and Land, has considerable variety. He shows a sure touch in locating figures in meaningful activity in harbour scenes and roadways. There is an occasional reconstruction of an historical scene such as the Massacre of Culloden Moor and the destruction of Elgin Cathedral. Figures also respond to the weather, and engage in hand to hand contact. There is a mass of kilts throughout, and even a kilted warrior with a bow and arrow. His clusters of vegetation, roots and trees are highly detailed – no corners cut here.

Above all I admire his construction of atmosphere, cloud, mist and great masses of mountains seen by the setting sun. He shows an unerring capacity for evoking rushing water, and turbulent streams over boulders.

 He died at 68, at 1 Barnes Villas, ( now 80 Lonsdale Road) London not having made much much money as architect or topographical draftsman.