Thursday, 31 March 2016

The class of 1904 continued…

The Forgotten Arts and Crafts Metalworkers Blanche Cecilia and Bertha Lillian Goff

The Goff sisters, Blanche Cecilia and Bertha Lillian, were metalworkers in the early twentieth century. The first evidence of the sisters having been connected with the Blackheath School of Art is when Blanche Goff’s metalwork was praised in the 1904 review:
‘Miss Blanche Goff’s beaten silver work and enamel jewellery deserve commendation.’[1]
Sadly, not much is known of Blanche today although we do know that she worked with her sister Bertha and that they exhibited together. There are records of their collaborative pieces being exhibited in the Society of Women Artists 1904 exhibition[2] and the Arts and Crafts exhibition of 1906[3]. They were also assistants to Christine Connell who married into the famous jewelling family Connell who had premises in the city in Cheapside.[4] Bertha and Blanche are recorded as assistants to Christine Connell in the Studio (Studio Talk, No. 134, p. 348, 1904); having also previously studied under her. The candlesticks that are reproduced on this page are described as follows:
The candlesticks are also of silver, with peacock-blue enamel decoration, and glass candle-rings of a similar colour. Miss Connell was assisted in the making by Miss Blanche Goff and Miss Bertha Goff, who were both pupils of Miss Connell and who are now her assistants.[5]

Bowl by Christine Connell and Cadlesticks by Christine Connell and Bertha and Blanche Goff, The Studio 1904.

These candlesticks present the only photographic record of objects which feature the hand of Blanche Goff.[6]
The 1909 Prospectus for the School of Art features the name Miss B Goff as a teacher of Enamelling.[7] My initial belief was that it was most likely Bertha Goff (more about her later) who was the teacher at Blackheath School of Art but looking through the index of the Arts and Crafts exhibition catalogue, 1906 the sisters are listed as Miss B Goff, not separately.[8] It certainly allows for the consideration that perhaps both Bertha and Blanche taught enamelling in Blackheath.

Bertha is now the sister who is best remembered for her arts and crafts silver objects; including exquisite jewellery. The catalogue for a sale of her work at Christie’s in 2001 describes Bertha’s work “epitomis[ing] the aims of Arts and Crafts”.[9] What is known of her early career is that she attended the Holloway School of Art as she received National Competition medals in 1902, 1903 and 1904 for designs for jewellery. The 1902 National Award catalogue highlighted that from Goff’s silver medal award winning sheet of designs the “necklace, belt and small dish…are especially worthy of praise”.[10]  In 1904 Bertha Goff received a silver medal for her “excellent designs for Jewellery, in which she has shown a knowledge of various methods of work and considerable taste in their application.[11]
Bertha Goff, Designs for Silver Work, National Student Award 1902 Catalogue.

Bertha Goff, Designs for Necklets and Coat Clasps with Specimens in Materials, National Student award 1904 Catalogue.

As can be seen from the beautiful necklace featuring Leda and the Swan below these designs provided the basis for the finished article. A design for a very similar pendant can be seen in the top photograph of Bertha Goff’s designs.

Bertha Goff, Leda and the Swan, circa 1904..
Source: Van den Bosch Jewellery website -

As note 3 shows the Goff sisters lived close to the School of Art, in Lee. The census of 1911 shows that they were still living in the family home with Blanche 36 and Bertha 34 years of age and both women still listed as single. Rather unfortunately neither of the sisters has an occupation described in their entry. Prior to living in Lee the Goff family lived in north London, Finsbury, which may explain Bertha’s attendance at the Holloway School of Art in the early 1900’s. They are recorded as living in Lee from 1900 onward[12].

Beyond the 1911 census I have not yet been able to find much information regarding the Goff sisters. What I do know is that Blanche died on 11 February 1965 at the age of 91[13] and Bertha died at the age of 94 in 1975.[14] Both of these sisters currently remain as enigmas in the world of arts and crafts silversmiths. Hopefully with further research and interest in their work this will change in the future to shed further light on the influence the of the Blackheath School of Art in this detailed and elegant medium.

[1] “Art Exhibitions: Blackheath School of Art”, Arts & Crafts Magazine, vol. 1-2, Hutchinson & Company, 1904, p.325.
[2] The Society of Women Artists Exhibition 1904, Arts and Crafts Magazine, vol. 1 – 2, Hutchinson & Company, 1904. A large and excellent display of jewellery and enamels included work by Mrs. Dick, Mrs. Bethune, Mrs. Mills, Alice S. Grant, Blanche and Bertha Goff, Mlle. Labrosse, Maud Partridge (Guild of Metal Workers, Barnstaple), A. M. Winton, Rosabella Drummond, Mrs. Hadaway, Mrs. A. Mure, Ethel Kirkpatrick, Ethel Virtue, the Misses Remington, Magdalen Z. Hoyer, Mrs. E. Roscoe Mullins, and Mrs. Brackett.
[3] Arts and Crafts exhibition Society catalogue of the eighth exhibition at the Grafton galleries’ Grafton Street, Bond Street, 1906:
Exhibited by MISS GOFF.
Exhibited by MISS GOFF.
Goff, Miss B., "Ashdene," The Avenue, Lee, S.E. 318, 321
[4] Mary Christine Connell (known as Christine) was born in 1871 and was married to George Lawrence Connell on 9 April 1904 in St Peter’s Church, Streatham. George’s father William George Connell ran Connell, Cheapside and George took over his father’s business with Christine, which was located at 83 Cheapside. I have not yet been able to find where Christine taught although my hunch would be that it was at Holloway School of Art where Bertha was a student until at least 1904. In the 1911 census George and Christine were listed as living at 3 Uffington Road, West Norwood. Such was their success that the only other person listed in the household was Mabel Miriam Welton who was their 21 year old General Domestic Servant.
[5] Studio Talk, Studio Magazine, No. 134, 1904, p. 348. Illustration has been taken from the same page.
[6] This is from my current research. I hope to find more evidence in the future.
[7] Prospectus is available to view in the London Metropolitan Archives.
[8] See note 3.
[9] Christie’s, Sale 9132, 20th Century Jewellery, London, South Kensington, 19 June 2001, Lot 10. The pre-lot text lists that the collection to be sold by Bertha Goff’s great-niece was first highlighted by Geoffrey Munn on BBC’s Antique Roadshow. Munn pointed out on the programme that; "Completely comprehensive collections of this type are very rare indeed. In the long term it is desperately important that the entire collection stays together." Despite numerous attempts to contact Christie’s about this sale I am yet to receive a response. Thanks to Geoffrey Munn for further suggestions regarding tracing Bertha Goff’s great niece.
[10] Board of Education, South Kensington: National Competition 1902, London, p. 42. The illustration included is from the following page, p. 43.
[11] Board of Education, South Kensington: National Competition 1904, London, p. 41. The illustrations are on the previous page, p. 40.
[12] 'Bertha Lillian Goff', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 In 1900 the Goff family was recorded as residing at Ashdene, The Avenue, Lee, SE.
[13] The London Gazette, 19 February, 1965, p. 1891. Blanche Cecilia Goff, 16 Vine Avenue, Sevenoaks, Kent, Spinster, 11 February 1965.
[14] Records of Births and Deaths, Newbury, Vol 6A, p. 173. Bertha was born on 9 August 1876.

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