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London maps: Crace Collection

The Crace collection consists of some 1200 manuscript and printed maps and views of London dating from 1560 to 1860. It was the private collection of Frederick Crace (1799-1859), London interior decorator and Commissioner of Sewers, and came to the British Museum through his son John Gregory Crace in 1878. The collection is one of the most varied and important collections of London ever to be assembled, and has been divided into two parts: the maps are kept in the British Library Map Library, whilst the views are held in the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

The collection was assembled by Frederick Crace (1799-1859), Commissioner for Sewers, and came to the Museum through his son John Gregory Crace, who edited the catalogue, since revised by Peter Barber, Head Map Librarian. Much of the Crace Collection has been digitised and is available online.

Map depicting the fire of London 1666

Grundtriss der Statt London wie solche vor und nach dem Brand anzusehen, sampt dem Newen Model, wie selbige widrum Auffgebauwet werden solle. 1666. Maps Crace Port.2 66. Copyright © The British Library Board

Contents

The British Library’s holdings contain the following:

  • Many of the most significant printed maps of London
  • Maps of Central London as well as maps of London suburbs
  • Plans of major public buildings such as Westminster Abbey
  • Maps of small areas of land, produced for some particular planning or administrative purpose
  • Copies and tracings of maps which Crace was unable to obtain. In some cases these are now the only surviving copies of lost originals

Arrangement

The collection has been organised in such a way that maps of a similar date and geographical area are grouped together in nineteen portfolios, the contents of which are summarised below:

Portfolio 1          Maps of London from 1560 to 1666

Portfolio 2          Maps of London from 1666 to 1726

Portfolio 3          Maps of London from 1730 to 1755

Portfolio 4          Maps of London from 1756 to 1777

Portfolio 5          Maps of London from 1779 to 1799

Portfolio 6          Maps of London from 1800 to 1828

Portfolio 7          Maps of London from 1830 to 1859

Portfolio 8          Plans of the City wards and parishes

Portfolio 9          Plans of property in the City

Portfolio 10        Plans of Kensington and Mayfair

Portfolio 11        Plans of Westminster

Portfolio 12        Plans of St. James and Soho

Portfolio 13        Plans of St. Martin in-the-Fields and Covent Garden

Portfolio 14        Plans of Marylebone and St. Pancras

Portfolio 15        Plans of Bloomsbury, Holborn, Clerkenwell and Islington

Portfolio 16        Plans of Southwark, Lambeth and East London

Portfolio 17        Plans for rebuilding London after The Great Fire

Portfolio 18        Plans of public sewers and water courses

Portfolio 19        Maps of the environs of London

The shelfmarks of Crace maps are made up of the following information: Maps prefix, collection, portfolio number, and individual sheet within portfolio. For example:

Maps Crace Port.16.28 An actual survey of the parish of Limehouse in the parish of Stepney by Joel Gascoyne, I.Harris sculp, 1703.

Almost all of the maps have been mounted, and where occasionally two maps have been mounted on the same sheet of card, these are differentiated by the letters a or b.

 

Research value

The Crace Collection is a valuable primary research source for the study of London. Areas of research topics include urban planning and development, tourism, civil engineering, architecture and history. A particular strength of the collection is the ability to chart the growth and development of London by comparing successive versions of maps. In addition, the material relating to the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire offers the researcher not only the opportunity to see the development of the planning process, but affords an important view of the attitudes and preoccupations of those involved in its’ realisation.

 

Finding Aids/Further Reading

The Crace collection can be ordered using Explore the British Library 

The Crace Collection of maps has been digitised, and may be viewed on the online exhibition section of the British Library website.

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/crace/

Crace, John Gregory, A catalogue of maps plans and views of London, Westminster and Southwark collected and arranged by Frederick Crace (1878). Also Revised Edition by Peter Barber [1997] of plans section with manuscript annotations. Maps Ref Z.1.(5.)

The Crace Collection of London Views in the British Museum. (1982). Maps Ref G.4.

Views published on microfilm, viewable in the Maps Reading Room of the British Library. Maps Mic.A.26

Barber, Peter, A revision of the catalogue of Crace's London plans, London Topographical Society Newsletter 43 (1996). Maps Ref Z.1.(6.)