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  • Place of origin:

    Lincolnshire (made)

  • Date:

    1870s-1890s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller family marionette company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved wood with painted decoration; sewn cotton stuffed body with cotton, wool, knitted and leather costume. Suspected use of human hair.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is one of 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. This is a young woman who would have been a stock character. Both hands are carved open for gesture so she would not have been able to hold props.

Physical description

Carved wooden marionette; a young woman with a pink-toned painted face, red mouth, and glass eyes with heavily outlined lids and eyebrows. She has a real hair, light brown, wig and wears an ivory silk dress (rotted and fraying in places), lined with gauze and edged with turquoise blue wool trimming with silk embroidery. She wears a cotton underskirt. There is turquoise petersham at her wrists and as a sash, and a small brooch in the form of a flower spray at her throat. Both hands are open.

Lightly-stuffed torso, and therefore a flexible waist. Also shows the technique of attaching slightly stuffed tubes of cloth to the top of the legs, sewn across and tacked to the body.
One control bar; the other probably lost, since the legs are equipped with eyelets, and the costume has reinforced eyelet holes for the strings.

Place of Origin

Lincolnshire (made)


1870s-1890s (made)


Tiller family marionette company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved wood with painted decoration; sewn cotton stuffed body with cotton, wool, knitted and leather costume. Suspected use of human hair.


Height: 68 cm top of head to feet, Length: 13cm cm head and neck

Object history note

This marionette along with the rest of the troupe and three 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 of the marionettes 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, an expert puppet carver, manipulator and puppet historian, whose widow sold them to the Museum after his death in 1998.

Descriptive line

Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe. Stock character representing a young woman lead character, wearing a cream silk dress with turquoise embroidery and trimming. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890.

Production Note

It is impossible to identify the precise maker of this marionette since the company made, altered and used figures throughout its career. It is possible, however, to distinguish distinct types, and therefore groups, made by different makers, due to the type of carving. The carver of this object has been distinguished as Maker ???????????? because of ????.


Wood; String; Cotton; Wool yarn; Wood; Human hair


Carved; Sewn; Stuffed; Knitted; Painted


Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

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