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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, cotton cord, knitted and synthetic silk costume

  • 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 leading working-class male who would have been a stock character, used in any play requiring an honest workman. His hair and beard are carefully carved, and his face has been painted in a slightly brown colour, as if to indicate that he works out of doors. His right hand has been carved closed to hold props, the other shaped for gesture.

Physical description

Carved wooden marionette; a male lead type (popular class) or honest workman, wearing beige velvet corduroy knee-length trousers and a cream brushed cotton blouson shirt with smocking at the yoke and at the top of the sleeves. He wears specially knitted green and mustard yellow woollen stockings. He has carefully carved hair and beard, painted black, a slightly brown-tinted face, and painted eyes with black dots for pupils. His right hand is shaped to hold a prop while his left hand is open for gesture. His legs are attached from cotton tubes and the lower leg is attached by a tongue into a hollow in the upper leg.

One original control bars, and one replacement made for the 1999 performance of Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn. There is a string between the shoulders.

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, cotton cord, knitted and synthetic silk costume


Circumference: 28.5 cm head, Height: 68 cm top of head to feet, Length: 16cm 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.

This marionette was used as Jack Junk in the production of The Floating Beacon which took place at the Theatre Museum in April 2004.

Descriptive line

Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe. Stock character representing an honest working man or male lead (popular class). 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 B because of its standard-sized head.


Wood; Synthetic silk; String; Cotton; Wool yarn; Wood


Carved; Sewn; Sewn; Stuffed; Knitted; Painted


Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

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