The Puppet Centre was recently contacted by a museum in Devon. The museum had a loans service that loaned items out to schools, but due to funding cuts the service had to close and many of the items were donated to the various schools in the county. Some however were deemed too valuable and the museum set out to find homes for these. Amongst them were seven puppets which once belonged to the Hogarth Puppets.
The Hogarth Puppets, founded by Jan Bussell & Ann Hogarth in 1932, were one of Britain’s largest touring puppet companies. They are best known for the character "Muffin the Mule" who appeared with Annette Mills on the BBC programme from 1946 to 1955. Muffin had been a member of the Hogarth’s circus Since the 1930s, but was chosen by Mills from the vast array of Hogarth puppets that could appear on the show. The Hogarth Puppets toured the world, playing West End theatres, Australia, Canada and all over Europe. In summer they toured the parks of London with their caravan and tent theatres. Jan wrote many books on their adventures.
|Ann Hogarth performing Muffin (with Annette Mills)|
There are 6 puppets in the donated collection, consisting of;
- ‘Grump’ the night watchman from the play ‘Fly by Night’
- ‘The Green Man’ a disjointing puppet
- ‘Charlie Acorn’ the Pianist from the Hogarth band that opened each show
- ‘Clifford Sax’ the Saxophonist from the band
- ‘Captain Jack Smyth’ the drummer also from the band
- ‘Tickler’ the Sword Swallowing clown
- ‘Muffin the Mule’ in armour to fight the crusades (this is all made from tin)
All of the puppets now reside in the National Puppetry Archive (you can see the archive here and the official website here ) some of the puppets will be on exhibit at the AGM of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild in May. What’s so wonderful about them is not just the puppets themselves, which are superb examples of the Hogarth’s work as well as Jack Whitehead carved heads, but the fantastic display boxes that each puppet arrived in. Purpose built and fitted with bespoke foam for traveling - once opened out they can be easily displayed inside their boxes within a few minutes!