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Harborough Museum

Ernest Elliott Marionettes

Ernest Elliott Marionettes

Elliott learnt how to play the piano by ear as a child and put on Saturday afternoon shows with his friends. He studied conjuring tricks, ventriloquism and had a Punch & Judy show. At the age of 18, he formed the Merry Vagabonds Concert Party, which performed locally until World War I.

His parents viewed his penchant for entertaining as “silly nonsense”. Therefore, after leaving school, Elliott worked for the family’s tailoring business on Church Street. After World War I, and his father’s death, he ran the shop with his mother. It prospered for a few years but ran into difficulties in the early 1920s.

During this time, he continued performing semi-professionally, but longed to do something more novel. Elliott had been watching a Leicester performer called John Goddard for some time, whose act involved human marionettes. When Goddard retired, Elliott took his place.

Elliott’s friends helped him acquire the equipment he needed for his act. One friend, a cabinet-maker, made him a marionette theatre, another helped him make the figures’ bodies and Elliott made the figures’ costumes.

His first paid performance was in 1922. He went on to become a great success and employed someone to run the tailors while he travelled the country with his show. At the height of his career he performed for Princess Margaret and made several television appearances.

Having toured the country for 35 years, Elliott retired in 1957. He is remembered by many as one of the best-loved entertainers from Leicestershire.

You can see photographs of his performances alongside the marionettes in the ‘Born and Bred’ case at Harborough Museum.

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Address: The Symington Building, Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7LT (Car Park: LE16 7XA)

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