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Vent doll

Vent doll

  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Insull, Len, born 1883 - died 1974 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Suspected use of human hair.

  • Credit Line:

    Malcolm Chapman Collection, given by Soo Chapman

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This walking figure was originally made for and used by the ventriloquist Peter Brough (1916-1999), and was later owned by the comedian Tony Hancock (1924-1968). Peter Brough was a very well-known ventriloquist who made his name, extraordinarily, as a ventriloquist on the radio with his show Educating Archie that first aired in June 1950. At the height of his fame he had 15m listeners and a fan club of 250,000 children. He reached an even wider public in 1956 with his vent doll Archie on his BBC television sitcom Here's Archie, followed by the ITV programme, 1958-1959 Educating Archie.

This vent doll was made by the vent-doll maker Herbert Brighton (d.1960) who used to perform himself under the the stage name Benson Grey. The painted eyelashes and pink lines around the ears with central red dots are characteristic of figures made by Herbert Brighton.

Physical description

Full-length figure of a standing gentleman wearing full evening dress comprising a black tailcoat jacket with 6 black buttons, black evening trousers, a white cotton waistcoat and shirt with 9 mother of pearl buttons, a cardboard wing collar and a white cotton bow tie. His papier-mâché boots are painted black and his framework is made from wood, plywood, papier-mâché and wire with nuts and bolts. His head is dressed with a hair wig and has glass eyes and a mouth with movable bottom lip.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


Insull, Len, born 1883 - died 1974 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Suspected use of human hair.


height: 118 cm from the top of the crown to the soles of the feet, Width: 48.0 maximum, from arm to arm, Depth: 31.0 cm From his back to the edge fhis left hand index finger.

Object history note

Originally made for and performed by the ventriloquist Peter Brough (1916-1999) before being acquired by Tony Hancock (1924-1968) and subsequently by Malcolm Chapman (1949-2012).

Descriptive line

Vent doll called Jimmy wearing full evening dress. Made by Herbert Brighton (d.1960) and originally owned and performed by Peter Brough (1916-1999) before being acquired by Tony Hancock (1924-1968) and subsequently by Malcolm Chapman (1949-2012). The Malcolm Chapman Collection. Gift of Soo Chapman.


Human hair


Ventriloquism; Puppetry


Theatre and Performance Collection

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