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Puppet costume - Victorian puppet costume
  • Victorian puppet costume
    Tiller family marionette company
  • Enlarge image

Victorian puppet costume

  • Object:

    Puppet costume

  • Place of origin:

    Lincolnshire (made)

  • Date:

    1870s-1890s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller family marionette company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-sewn silk, lace and sequin costume

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This costume came to the V&A with 35 marionettes from the Tiller-Clowes troupe, one of the last Victorian marionette troupes in England. Marionette shows were a popular form of entertainment for adults in the 19th century, many of them family concerns which travelled around the country long before the advent of film and television, presenting shortened versions of London's latest popular entertainment from melodramas and pantomimes to minstrel shows and music hall. In the 18th and early 19th centuries their theatres were relatively makeshift, but after about 1860 many became quite elaborate, with walls constructed from wooden shutters, seating made from tiered planks of wood, and canvas roofs.

The figures were carved, painted, dressed and performed by members of the company. Different costumes were needed for puppets to change into, and to play different characters.

Physical description

Long-sleeved cream silk dress with gold metal sequins and lace trim

Place of Origin

Lincolnshire (made)


1870s-1890s (made)


Tiller family marionette company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-sewn silk, lace and sequin costume

Object history note

This dress was one of the original costumes that came to the museum with some of the marionettes from the Tiller Clowes marionette troupe. The rest of the troupe and some of their original backcloths had been stored in a blacksmith's shop in Lincolnshire for over thirty years, but after cleaning and re-stringing, most were restored by Gerald Morice and George Speaight who purchased them in 1945. They began working on recreating some of the puppets' original repertoire. Since the original cloths were too fragile for performance, new backdrops were painted, and in August 1951 as part of The Festival of Britain celebrations, the marionettes took to the stage again as The Old Time Marionettes, at the Riverside Theatre, Festival Gardens, Battersea Park. In the 1980s George Speaight lent the troupe to puppeteers in Germany but in the late 1990s he sold them to John Phillips, whose widow sold them to The Theatre Museum after his death in 1998.

Descriptive line

Dress made to be worn by one of the Tiller-Clowes marionettes, possibly as a wedding dress. Silk, lace and metal sequins. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890.


Lace; Sequins; Silk


Hand sewing; Sewing


Entertainment & Leisure; Puppetry; Theatre costumes; Marriage

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

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