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  • Place of origin:

    Long Sutton (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller family marionette company (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache on sailcloth and wood

  • Credit Line:

    Given by George Speaight.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is one of several 19th century scenic cloths for travelling marionette shows performed by the Clowes and Tiller companies, and possibly the only surviving group of 19th century scenic cloths of their type. They are rare survivals which offer first-hand evidence about marionette shows of their time, and about 19th century scene painting in general. They were given to the museum by George Speaight after he had looked after them in his attic for almost fifty years. He and Gerald Morice had bought them in the late 1940s from Harriet Clowes who remembered performing with them when she was a girl. At the same time they bought a quantity of marionettes which are now also in the museum's collection.

Scene-painters were much in demand for marionette shows, as they were for the theatre generally, and when companies didn't have the expertise themselves, they advertised for scene- painters. Each play had several scenes, and to save on the expense of canvas, many of these cloths are painted on both sides, with different scenes. Some even have eyelets which may show their origins as sails.

Physical description

Backcloth held between split round batten at lower edge and split square batten at upper edge. The coarse weave canvas is painted in distemper with a view of the courtyard of a coaching inn showing the exterior of half-timbered buildings, the coaching inn and doorway stage left with an inn sign above the door, and iron railings in front. The window of the house stage left is, curiously, painted with a garden view.

An eyelet set into the left hand side is possible evidence of the former life of the canvas as a sail.

Place of Origin

Long Sutton (probably, painted)


ca. 1870 (painted)


Tiller family marionette company (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Gouache on sailcloth and wood

Marks and inscriptions

Painted in black ink on lower batten


Height: 199.5 cm of canvas, Width: 301.6 cm of canvas, Length: 324.5 cm upper batten, Length: 324.0 cm lower batten

Descriptive line

Backcloth representing the exterior of houses and an inn, possibly an inn courtyard. Painted by the Tiller marionette company family, ca. 1870. Gift of George Speaight.

Production Note

'Lincolnshire' is painted in black paint on the lower batten. Long Sutton was the Lincolnshire base of one part of the Tiller family.


Canvas; Distemper; Wood; Gouache


Painting (image-making)

Subjects depicted

Half-timbering; Houses


Entertainment & Leisure; Puppetry


Theatre and Performance Collection

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