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 kindly elderly gentleman who would have been a stock character, used in any play requiring such a role. His right hand is closed to hold props, while his left hand is open for gesture. His clothes are possibly all original, including his triple watch chain which was probably made from old jewellery belonging to a member of the company.
Carved wooden marionette; an elderly balding man with carved sideburns painted grey, and a pinkish tinted painted face with black painted pupils with flecks, upper left. He is wearing possibly his original costume of black wool serge trousers, a white shirt pleated at the shoulders and cuffs, and a blue and white striped waistcoat with decorative mother-of-pearl buttons down the front centre, and another on the pocket, left front, from which three small lengths of chain to make a triple watch chain. The waistcoat has practical buttons centre back for removal. He wears a red silk foulard with yellow and black patterned motifs. His right hand is shaped to hold a prop while his right hand is open for gesture. He has a flat oval padded torso and yoke with a hollow for the joint, and padded upper arms. The legs have leather loops for attachment and the ankles have a metal joint with a nail or pin bent over
Two original control bars, one with notches for leg strings, and another with five notches, the head string on the outside, and the inner notches not used. There are brass screw eyes of a later period to allow the hand strings to run through, and a centre notch for a string to the screw eye between the shoulders (speech string). There is a staple on the back of the head, similar to S.303-1999, possibly for a speech string at one point and a small staple in the centre forehead for a hat string, or a run-through for a hand-to-head gesture. There is also a speech string in the back of the head.
Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe. Stock character representing a respectable elderly balding man with mutton-chop whiskers or sideburns. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890.