Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Place, Francis (1647-1728)

PLACE, FRANCIS (1647 – 1728), amateur artist, was fifth son of Rowland Place of Dinsdale, co. Durham, by Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Charles Wise of Copgrove, Yorkshire. His father had been admitted to Gray's Inn on 9 Oct. 1633 (see Foster, Gray's Inn Registers), and Place was articled there to an attorney, a profession for which he had no inclination. Owing to the outbreak of the great plague in London in 1665, Place left London, and quitted the law for an artist's life, having great gifts for drawing and engraving. He was a personal friend of Wenceslaus Hollar [q. v.], the engraver; but, though he modelled his style of drawing and engraving on that of Hollar, he said himself that he was not his pupil. Place took up his residence in the manor-house close to St. Mary's Abbey at York. He was an intimate friend of William Lodge [q. v.], Ralph Thoresby [q. v.], and other artists and antiquaries in or near York. With Lodge he went many drawing and angling excursions, and during the alarm of popery caused by Oates's plot the pair were on one occasion taken up and put into prison. Place had considerable merit as a painter of animals and still life, and also drew portraits in crayons; among his crayon portraits is one which is probably the only authentic likeness of the famous William Penn. He etched a number of landscapes, marine or topographical subjects, including a valuable set of views of the observatory at Greenwich, and a view of St. Winifred's Well. Some of his plates were done for the publications of his friends, such as Thoresby's ‘Ducatus Leodiensis’ and Drake's ‘Eboracum.’ Place also etched several sets of birds and animals after Francis Barlow, and the plates to Godartius's ‘Book of Insects.’ He was one of the first Englishmen, if not the very first, to practise the newly discovered art of mezzotint-engraving, and left several interesting examples, including portraits of Sir Ralph Cole, Nathaniel Crew (bishop of Durham), Archbishop Sterne, and his friends Henry Gyles, the glass-painter, William Lodge, John Moyser of Beverley, Yorkshire, Pierce Tempest and Richard Tompson the print-sellers, and Philip Woolrich. Most of these engravings are very rare. A good collection of Place's drawings (chiefly of Yorkshire topography) and engravings is in the print-room of the British Museum. Place lived for forty years at York, where he also made some experiments in the manufacture of pottery, producing a grey ware with black streaks of which a few specimens have been preserved. Place died on 21 Sept. 1728, in his eighty-second year, and was buried in St. Olave's Church Without at York. He married, on 5 Sept. 1693, Ann Wilkinson, by whom he had three daughters, one of whom, Frances, was married to Wadham Wyndham. Upon his death his widow left the manor-house at York, where Place had resided, and disposed of a number of his paintings. He drew his own portrait, and another was painted by Thomas Murray.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed.Wornum; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. xxv. 32; Vertue's Diaries (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 23070, f. 25); Surtees's Hist. of Durham, iii. 237; Durham Visitation Pedigrees (Harl. Soc. Publ.)]

L. C.