Harry Relph (Little Tich) volumes

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection consists of four volumes containing images, cuttings and ephemera documenting the lives and careers of Harry Relph, his third wife Winifred Relph and his daughter Mary Relph, as well as photographs of other members of his immediate and extended family. In many instances the photographs have been labelled with relevant information (names, dated and context).

Administrative / Biographical History

Harry Relph, otherwise known on stage as Little Tich, would go on to become one of Britain's most popular music-hall and variety acts. His talents and his agility were closely related to his physical characteristics , in particluar his stature (he was 4 foot 6 inches tall) and the fact that he was double jointed. He became famous for his characters including the Spanish Senorita, the Tax Collector, the Tram Conductor, the Gas Inspector and Little Miss Turpentine. Perhaps his most memorable routine was called Big Boots, which had him dancing in boots that were 28 inches long. He was also a major Pantomime star, notably at Drury Lane. Famous in the United States and France as well as in Britain, his highly visual comic routines influenced both stage and early film performers internationally.

Born in 1867 in Bromley, Relph first appeared on stage at the age of twelve at the Rosherville Gardens in Gravesend with a blackface act he had developed himself. He made his London debut at the Foresters Theatre in 1884. During a 1887-1889 tour of the United States Relph abandoned the 'blackface' act to concentrate on dancing and character sketches, developing his Big Boots routine and a burlesque of the famous Serpentine dance performed by the American dancer Loie Fuller.

Relph was married three times; to English dancer Laurie Brooks in 1889, then to Spanish dancer Julia Recio in 1898 and finally to actress Winifred Ivey in 1926. Harry and Winifreds daughter Mary was born in 1918 and went on to have a successful stage career of her own.

His final performance was at the London Alhambra Theatre in 1927. Following an on-stage accident, Relph suffered a stroke and died shortly afterwards in February, 1927. His widow Winifred died in 1973.

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged into the following items:

  • THM/326/1 - Harry Relph (Little Tich) - Career
  • THM/326/2 - Harry Relph (Little Tich) - Career and family
  • THM/326/3 - Winifred Relph - Life and career
  • THM/326/4 - Mary Relph - Life and career

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of a friend of Mary Relph, 2001.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The four volumes in this collection are in a very fragile condition, largely due to their creation involving the use of ring-binders, inexpensive scrapbooks, plastic materials, adhesive tapes and other materials impacting on the long-term stability of the items. During the cataloguing process some preventive measures have been applied, however for a number of items access is at the discretion of the archivist only.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Little Tich may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions and photographs files, the library holdings and the Richard Findlater Archive (THM/162). The Theatre and Performance Department also has a pair of the famous Little Tich 'Big Boots' in its collection.

Please ask for details.