Hugo’s Toy Theatre

John Kilby Green – Proscenium & Orchestra


Photograph of the original Zinc Plate for Green’s Victoria 1d Stage Front.



The first of all toy theatre kits was Green’s “Punch’s Show”.

This was produced around 1810.


PUNCHs SHOW (Front).jpg  Punch&Judy Show TC Joined.jpg


Punch’s Show – Plain and coloured in original blue & white.




Green produced several stage fronts during his career but only a few examples survive.

Most famous of these must be his 1st January 1812 Proscenium, which is the oldest surviving complete stage front in existence.

However, a recent find in the British Museum leads me to consider that this was in fact a copy of West’s own version of the same proscenium.

The item found in the British Museum is just the top arch. The quality of the art work was superior to Green’s but an almost exact fit,

therefore Green must have had sight of West’s original to copy from.





IK Green’s 1st January 1812 Stage Front



The same theatre painted by David Brown (no relation) and an unknown orchestra added (not by JK Green).


1812-HB-West Arch-IKG Wingsxx2.jpg

The same theatre painted by myself, with the top arch replaced by West’s version.



His next known theatre was his miniature stage front from 1834.

Green’s plagiaristic talents may have been responsible for this work as well, as M Skelt produced an almost identical 1d version.

Most copying around this time was a reduction in size from 1d to ½d scale, so indicating that Green was more likely to be the plagiarist on this occasion.

This was part of the collection sold to W Webb upon the death of JK Green in 1860.


I had come across a theatre labelled as Webb’s Miniature Theatre and took this for the one he acquired from Green’s estate and to be the one described above, however this now appears to be a Webb original.

So did Webb copy Skelt or vice versa? Plagarism becomes increasingly the norm in the toy theatre.

Green's New Improved Stage Front TC-HB3x1.jpg

A reproduction of Webb’s Miniature Stage Front, painted by myself in as close to traditional colouring as can be had with modern pigments.


Image of Green’s 1834 to follow shortly.


At roughly the same time (3rd August 1834) there was an orchestra.

This was too big to be the counterpart for Green’s miniature theatre.

This was later used as a companion to Green’s 1d theatres, although it appears to be too long.

So maybe it was originally made to compliment a 2d theatre.


JK Green’s 3rd August 1834 Orchestra



JK Green’s 3rd August 1834 Orchestra – made up


This orchestra was shortened (most likely on the lithographic stone and probably by Pollock) sometime after Green’s death.

JKG-Orchestra-1834-Cut by Pollock-TC-HB.jpg

Pollock’s? Shortened orchestra, but obviously taken from Green’s 1834 Orchestra.



According to the lists of items Green had for sale in 1836, there were three stage fronts for sale.

The ½d scale listed above.

However a 1d and a 2d stage front, which were also listed, unfortunately no known copies appear to have survived.


1st August 1841 – The Victoria

This was Green’s first known 1d theatre.


(Computer generated Penny Plain version of JK Green’s Victoria – Created from the above photograph of the Plate)


(My painted version of the Victoria)



The same theatre – beautifully decorated here by Horatio Blood


The next and last known Proscenium produced by JK Green was the “Regency” as it is commonly known today.

This is one of the few items produced by JK Green without a date.

By virtue of the address given as 9 Thurlow Place, we can deduce that it’s manufacture took place sometime between 1852 and 1860.


JK Green’s Regency Proscenium



JK Green’s Regency Proscenium – Painted somewhat garishly by myself.




JK Green’s Regency Proscenium as made up.


(Note how the top pieces don’t actually make a good join. The Pollock’s 1946 version was corrected in the printing process).


Benjamin Pollock Ltd’s 1946 Regency Proscenium complete with cut–down 1834 Orchestra.


More to follow!