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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 knitted stockings

  • 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 marionette of a young man arrived at the museum undressed, apart from his knitted stockings, revealing the construction method of all the marionettes in the troupe, with their carved and painted hands, forearms, legs and boots, carved yoke, stuffed torso, and legs attached to the pelvis by leather loops.

Physical description

Carved wooden marionette; a young man with a beige painted face with redder cheeks, painted blue eyes and eyelashes, and carved hair. Carved and painted hands, and boots. He is not dressed apart from blue knitted stockings on his lower legs.

His hands are both open and the right hand has a heavy staple between the thumb and index finger, to take props. There are traces of tacks or eyelet holes in the left palm. Wooden yoke and pelvis of the 'flat' Tiller design, with a stuffed torso with flexibility at the waist. The legs are attached to the pelvis by leather loops, and the lower leg includes a shaped knee.

This marionette arrived in the museum undressed and un-strung. Strings and control bars were added when he was used as Frederic in the production of The Floating Beacon which took place at the Theatre Museum in April 2004.

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 knitted stockings


Circumference: 30.5 cm head, Height: 68 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. 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 Frederic in the production of The Floating Beacon< at the Theatre Museum in April 2004.

Descriptive line

Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe. Stock character, undressed, representing a young man. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890, but re-dressed possibly in the 1950s.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Saturday Book - 25
Edited by John Bradfield, published Hutchinson, 1965.
Article entitled 'A Troupe of Puppets'.

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; Wool yarn; Cotton


Carved; Sewn; Stuffed; Knitted; Painted


Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

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