Beatrice Offor
Beatrice was born to George and Emma Offor on the 21st march 1864 at Peak Hill Villa, Sydenham, Kent. She was one of ten children, amongst them, governesses, music professors, and a brother in the Tea Industry emigrated to Australia where he settled and married. Beatrice’s father lived to well over 100 years old.

In 1882 Beatrice attended the Slade School of Art , studying “Fine Art and Fine Art Anatomy”. The Slade is now part of the London University. The school was one of the most important English Art Schools of the late 19th century. Renowned for it curriculum, based on the French system of art education. It was also the first English Art School to give students opportunities to study from the life model. Along the male students, women were also given the opportunity to study art on equal terms.

The Slade had been founded by Felix Slade in 1871, a wealthy art collector from Yorkshire. The first professor of art at Slade was Edward Poynter, who was replaced in 1876 by Alphonse Legros until 1892.

Beatrice befriended a Mona Bergson, and Annie Horniman (Horniman Tea Heiress). They shared a studio together on Fitzroy Road, London. Many artists lived in this area and were nick named the Fitzrovians.. Mona later married S.L.MacGregor Mathers, and took the name of Moina Mathers. They established the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. This influence can be seen in a couple of Beatrice’s paintings in particular, one title the “Crystal Gazer” The other untitled, but showing a dark haired woman in robes holding a golden goblet with a snake wound around the stem. Beatrice had come from a very strict Baptist family, and wonder what kind of reaction her family would have had to this Esoteric Order!!!

Beatrice left the Slade in 1885. She continued for many years to have works presented by the Royal Academy. Her portraits were often of brides of that era, she often used her sisters as models. Come the first world war she painted officers from the forces. One exists in my home of an officer with the Royal Engineers, who we believe to be Beatrice’s step son in law, Edward Prestwick. She also completed work for several churches in the Tottenham area, All Hallows Church, where she painted the virgin and child, and St Matthews Ponders End. Her paintings also include various MP’s of the time. J.P. Howard MP and a Sir Ralph Littler. It is also coming to light the prolific art work for the advertising industry.

A print has recently come to light called “The Spirit of Christmas” This was printed and included in the Illustrated London Weekly Magazine. The picture is of a young woman with holly in her hair surrounded by drifting snow flakes. I imagine that there is at least three more of these prints somewhere, representing Spring, Summer and also Winter. More discoveries on the internet have proved valuable, as there appears to have been over the past two decades oil paintings sold in France and Spain. Along with two oils on glass of more young women. E mails from the USA and Canada have brought other paintings to light as well.

Beatrice married for the first time in 1892 at St Georges, Hanover Square, London, to a William Farran Littler. William was an artist and a sculptor in his own right. A member of the Royal Institute of Oil painters from 1887 to 1892. The only painting shown at the Royal Academy was titled “Beryl” the daughter of F Leslie Jefferson. It has been assumed that William was related to Sir Ralph Littler, but no records exist to prove this. William was the son of a Commercial Traveller, William Henry Littler. William Farran was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1866. His brother Clement was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and Ralph Gray Littler born in London.

William and Beatrice had two sons, Ralph living only ten months and Eric living for only 4 months. Two years later, William was also dead. He died in the Banstead Asylum, Surrey, on the 9th February 1899. On the death certificate it states that he died of “Chronic Brain Disease” It is believed he was buried in Epsom. His two sons were buried in Lewisham, where in later years Beatrice was also to be interred.

Beatrice returned to the Kings Road in London, and carried on as an artist.

She remarried on the 20th August 1907 to J.P.Beavan, becoming step mother to three children. They lived at 8 Bruce Grove, Tottenham, opposite the Bruce Castle Museum.

For some reason on the 8th August 1920, Beatrice commits suicide. Her second attempt. It states in a local newspaper that she was suffering from depression after the death of two of her sons in a car accident. As Beatrice did not have any more natural children, it is unknown where this story came about. This was Beatrice’s second attempt, throwing herself from her bedroom window. Taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital, where her husband was Treasurer, she died of her injuries the following day.

In her will, she leaves all monies to be divided amongst her sisters. Only money left to her husband being money from a memorial picture. She does not mention the 39 odd paintings that were obviously left in her studio.

When her husband died, 6 years later, these paintings are left to her step son, who bequeaths them to The Bruce Castle Museum, where they remain til this day.

In 1993, I was contacted by the then curator, Penny Wheatcroft. She had made contact sometime before, requesting if I knew anything about Beatrice, as I didn’t at the time, started the long road of finding out more about her. I visited the museum, to find all of the paintings in a really bad state of repair. Penny was trying desperately to have the paintings restored to their former glory, but money was an issue. I promised her I would do all I could to help in the history of Beatrice. Years have gone by, and tiny pieces of information have come to light thanks to the computer. Finding other relatives, even her great nephew who lives in Australia, who presented me with photos of the family at last. Other people have been in contact sending me copies of paintings they have by Beatrice, but none have come forward with anything more. It is believed that the only people left knowing more will be Beatrice’s step children’s family, and these are the people that might have the information that is needed.

Whilst living in Singapore, I was contacted by an art dealer who told me that one of Beatrice’s paintings was up for auction in Sussex, where Beatrice’s step family now live. It is the army officer, and as I have mentioned earlier, believe it to be her step son in law. Two years on, I was contacted again by the same gentleman, another painting up for sale. This is believed to be from Beatrice’s time at the Slade School of Art, a monochrome study of a girl, wearing lily of the valley on her dress. In dreadful condition, but thanks to a wonderful conservator in Singapore, it is now the paintings it was over 100 years ago.

I understand that there is a permanent display of some of Beatrice’s paintings now in the Bruce Castle Museum. The rest remain in the attic. Hopefully in time they will be repaired and also put on show.

I urge anybody interested in these paintings, or indeed Beatrice’s sad story to visit the museum.

The curator at this time is Deborah Hedgecock, please contact her at the Bruce Castle Museum, for I am sure the more people interested, the more chance I have of prolonging these wonderful paintings for future generations.

I am yours

Anne Offor

August 2005, Victoria, Australia.