Sarah Crease Nee Lindley. later Lady Crease, was an artist, socialite, and diarist; born 30 Nov. 1826 in Acton (London), England, the eldest daughter of John Lindley and Sarah Freestone; she married Henry Pering Pellew Crease. later Lord Crease in Acton 27 April 1853, they had three sons and four daughters; She died 10 Dec. 1922 in Victoria, BC.
Crease left an impressive legacy. Several hundred of her ink, pencil, and watercolour works are extant, a prodigious and outstanding body of sketches. Several hundred of her ink, pencil and watercolour works are in the British Columbia archives. Together with her voluminous correspondence and numerous diaries, these records provide unparalleled documentation of British Columbia’s colonial and post-confederation immigrant society.
The eldest daughter of a distinguished botanist, university professor, and author, Sarah Lindley grew up in an environment steeped in plant lore and scientific curiosity, with an emphasis on gardening, horticulture, and specimen collecting. As a young girl, she attended Mrs Gee’s school in Hendon (London) and received private art lessons from family friend and noted portraitist Charles Fox. Inspiration and instruction in botanical illustration with watercolours came from Sarah Ann Drake, chief illustrator in her father’s employ. Fox taught watercolour and pencil sketching and introduced Sarah to woodblock printing and copperplate engraving. These techniques would be crucial to her later work, allowing her to translate her sketches into a publishable format. Between 1842 and 1858 she produced pen-and-ink botanical illustrations to accompany her father’s numerous publications, notably the Gardeners’ Chronicle (London), which he helped found in 1841, and would edit until his death in 1865, and The Vegetable Kingdom (London, 1846). Many of her sketches she translated into woodblock prints. She was thus able to study botany and earn pocket money, yet remained in the separate sphere of domestic life as a female dependent.
In 1848 Sarah met a law student and friend of her brother, Henry Pering Pellew Crease. They became engaged in June 1849, but the engagement was not publicly announced since Crease was obliged to travel with his family to Upper Canada immediately after taking his bar exams in July. Crease returned to England in December 1850 and the couple eventually married on 27 April 1853. After setting up a household in Notting Hill (London), he became a mining manager in Cornwall; his family moved there in 1856. Following his resignation in 1857, he left England and the next year he settled in Vancouver Island, where he became a barrister. Sarah arrived with their three daughters in February 1860.
The family lived in Victoria until 1862. Crease had been appointed attorney general of the mainland colony of British Columbia in October 1861, so they moved to New Westminster, the capital, and resided at Ince Cottage. They remained there until 1868, when they returned to Victoria. Financial uncertainty plagued the family, but in 1872 they began to construct Pentrelew, an Italianate-style country house, which would soon be surrounded by lush gardens.
Over an 18-year period, from 1854 to 1872, Sarah bore seven children, the youngest when she was 45. She coped with their measles, mumps, diphtheria, and scarlet fever, but still three children would predecease her. Sarah loved her family, but was a strict disciplinarian who set high moral standards.
Tsartlip Indians, Sarah Crease October 1860
Sarah’s art occupied a prominent part of her leisure time. In 1860 she had executed a series of 12 watercolours depicting the Hudson’s Bay Company fort and the town of Victoria; they remain important historical documents. These detailed and realistic paintings received a wide audience on their initial showing in 1862 at the International Exhibition in London, where they were labelled “the work of a colonial amateur.” Two of the sketches were later translated into lithographs to illustrate Richard Charles Mayne’s Four years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island (London, 1862) and they would be reproduced in numerous publications over the years. In 1862 she sketched landscapes of New Westminster, Hope, Yale, and the Fraser River and a decade later she documented the house and gardens of Pentrelew. Her sketches in 1877 of the newly consecrated St Andrew’s Church at Comox and of the Courtenay River were made into woodblock prints for the Church of England’s annual report on British Columbia’s missions. By the late 1870s her artistic activity had diminished and it soon ceased as failing eyesight (eventually diagnosed as glaucoma), compounded by years of eye strain, impaired her abilities. In 1880 she accompanied her husband on circuit during a three-month trip from New Westminster to the Cariboo region. Her daily diary remains an important record of travel in the province, containing details of events, people, and landscapes. Sarah became Lady Crease in 1896, when her husband was knighted. Henry Crease retired that year and the social obligations of public life ceased. Until 1919, when she broke a hip, she remained active in community works and corresponded with friends and family around the world.