Crace, Frederick (DNB00)

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CRACE, FREDERICK (1779–1859) a well-known collector of maps and views of London, was born on 3 June 1779. He followed the profession of his father as an architectural decorator, and was extensively employed on work at the royal palaces and other buildings. About 1818 he began to collect maps and views of London, a pursuit probably suggested to him by the circumstance that as a commissioner of sewers he often had occasion to consult old plans of the metropolis. During the last thirty years of his life he collected systematically. His magnificent collection was purchased in 1880 by the trustees of the British Museum from his son, Mr. John Gregory Crace, and is described in the ‘Catalogue of Maps, Plans, and Views of London, Westminster, and Southwark, collected and arranged by Frederick Crace. Edited by his son, John Gregory Crace,’ London, 1878, 8vo (another edition, 1879, 8vo). The whole collection consists of between five and six thousand prints and drawings, arranged in a series of fifty-seven portfolios. There are also eighteen large rollers with maps and plans, three volumes of maps, and a volume of ‘Illustra- tions of Frost Fairs on the Thames.’ The greater part of these maps, plans, and views were arranged and uniformly mounted on tinted paper by Crace himself during his leisure hours. The maps, some of which are very rare or unique, form a continuous series, illustrating the growth of London from 1560 to 1859. Many of the plans are of important properties, such as the Grey Friars, the Grosvenor estates, the Bank, &c.; it is said that the production by Crace in the court of chancery, in 1858, of the plan of the Pest-house, Craven Hill estate, decided the question of the ownership of the property. The views of London are very numerous, and often incidentally illustrate bygone manners and customs. They include examples by Vischer, 1620; W. Hollar, 1647; Kip, 1748; and Buck, 1749. Many of the drawn views have artistic as well as antiquarian interest; among them are works by W. Capon, P. Sandby, T. Sandby, R. B. Schnebbelie, Major Yates, J. Findlay, J. Buckler, and G. Shepherd. Crace's ambition was to have an illustration of every noteworthy London building; and under his auspices T. H. Shepherd made several hundred water-colour drawings for the collection. A selection of 1,743 specimens from the Crace collection was exhibited to the public in the king's library of the British Museum in 1880 and following years. A very large number of the illustrations in Thornbury and Walford's ‘Old and New London’ (see note, vi. p. ii) are derived from the collection, the whole of which was, at one time, placed at the disposal of Messrs. Cassell, the publishers, by the collector's son. Mr. Crace, whose ‘kind and genial disposition gained him a large circle of friends,’ died at Hammersmith on 18 Sept. 1859, in his eighty-first year. He had continued, in spite of failing health, to work at his much-loved collection till the last. He married in 1804 Augusta, daughter of Mr. John Gregory of Chelsea, treasurer of the Whig Club.

[J. G. Crace's Catalogue of the Crace Collection; Guide to the Exhibition Galleries, Brit. Mus. 1884, pp. 30–5; Brit. Mus. Parliamentary Return, 1881, pp. 7, 45; Gent. Mag. vii. 3rd ser. 435.]

W. W.