Tiller Clowes Marionette Company
Carved wood with painted decoration; sewn cotton stuffed body with cotton, wool, knitted & leather costume with metal whistles
Late 19th century
Museum no. S.295-1999
Troupes of Victorian travelling marionette players had a lot of plays, pantomimes and variety acts in their repertoire at any time, and presented many different shows during their visit to a town or a fair. To apprehend the villain, several plays called for a policeman (or 'bobby' or 'peeler', as they were called, after the founder of the force, Sir Robert Peel).
This marionette from the Tiller-Clowes troupe was originally made as a policeman, with the helmet and sideburns carved as one piece. He wears a blue serge policeman's jacket and trousers, with metal buttons and a leather belt. He is carrying two different types of 'Acme Thunderer' whistle, the type of whistle developed in the 19th century by a toolmaker in Birmingham and first tested by the Metropolitan Police in 1883. Because it could be heard a mile away, the police adopted it in preference to the cumbersome rattles they had previously used to attract attention. The left hand of this marionette is carved closed, indicating that the policeman may also originally have held a truncheon.