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Flying harness

Flying harness

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1904 (Made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kirby, G (Maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Canvas, leather and metal, sewn.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Nick Kirby

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 104, case 17, shelf 3

Flying effects have long been a feature of stage performance in Great Britain, arranged by people involved with the production. In the late 19th century however, the West End master stage carpenter George Kirby began a business which specialised in flying effects on stage, organising the routines and supplying the equipment. This is one of the body harnesses that he developed for performers to wear. It was shaped like a corset, with leather straps attached and could be unobtrusively attached and detached from the flying wires during performance.

Kirby had worked with the German troupe, the Grigolatis, whose flying effects needed four stage hands to raise and traverse one performer. Kirby was convinced that his system could be less cumbersome and in 1889 developed the first pendulum flying system with quick-release mechanism. One of the earliest productions for which Kirby supplied equipment was Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie, at the Duke of York's Theatre which featured the Darling children flying with Peter from their London home to Never Never Land. It opened on 27th December 1904. The family business passed on through successive generations when it became known as Kirby's AFX.

Physical description

Heavy twill cotton or canvas flying harness in the form of a lady's corset with leather shoulder straps, straps with holes punched to fasten into metal buckles, straps to fasten between the wearer's legs, and inset panels of leather back and front. The back leather panel was originally fitted with a device to hook and unhook the wearer into a flying line.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1904 (Made)


Kirby, G (Maker)

Materials and Techniques

Canvas, leather and metal, sewn.

Marks and inscriptions

Miss Coates
In ink on a small oval label stuck to the back centre leather panel


Height: 60 cm, Width: 30 cm, Depth: 23 cm

Object history note

Made by George Kirby to be used in the flying scenes of the original production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan , Duke of York's Theatre, 27 December 1904.

Descriptive line

Flying harness made by George Kirby for the original production of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Duke of York's Theatre, 27 December 1904


Canvas; Leather; Metal




Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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