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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 Tim Bobbin, the slow-witted Lancashire country bumpkin who, despite his stupidity, often displayed native cunning. The original Tim Bobbin appeared in a book written by John Collier in the mid-18th century. By the middle of the 19th century he regularly featured in marionette troupes and their plays.

Physical description

Carved wooden marionette; a country yokel or Tim Bobbin (Yorkshire Bob) figure with a florid pink-painted rather flat face and a deeply carved mouth with two teeth, with carved hair painted brown. His eyes have painted blue pupils flecked with white and he wears light black hand-stitched wool trousers with a slight stripe, suggesting cord, tied below the knees with white cotton tape. The trousers have a brown cotton edge at the top for drawstring; and he wears an ochre scarf, possibly rayon ca.1950s, and a white cotton smock with hand smocking suggesting that this was an original garment.

His right hand is shaped to hold a prop while his right hand is open for gesture. He has a solidly stuffed calico body and an oval wooden yoke (with hollow to take the neck joint) and pelvis. The legs are attached by leather loops, and the upper leg enters into the shaped part of the lower leg. There are large staples set in slots for the ankle joints.

Control bars. There is a string to the backside, not 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: 30 cm head, Height: 70 cm top of head to feet, Length: 15cm 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. A photograph in thje collection, S.1120-2010, shows George Speaight holding this marionette. 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.

Historical context note

This marionette appeared in Tricks with Strings, a performance on the 29th April 2018 as part of the V&A Performance Festival. The puppeteers included Ronnie Le Drew, Susan Dacre, Keith Frederick, Siân Kidd, and Eti Meacock. The performance was directed by Rachel Warr.

This marionette appeared in The Victorian Puppet Music Hall Show, a performance on the 28th April 2019 as part of the V&A Performance Festival. The puppeteers were Ronnie Le Drew, Susan Dacre, Keith Frederick, Siân Kidd, and Vicki Holden. Music was played by Jake Rodrigues, and the performance was directed by Rachel Warr.

Descriptive line

Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe representing the character Tim Bobbin, or Yorkshire Bob. 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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