Vesta Tilley was born in Worcester in 1864 as Matilda “Tilley” Powles. She made her first stage appearance at the age of 4 and her first appearance as a male impersonator in 1870 in Birmingham at Day’s Concert Hall. Vesta Tilley had a strong lesbian fan base and she challenged contemporary notions of gender roles in Victorian society.
This image comes from the Manning Collection (ref MS 310) which is a collection of photographs and other materials relating to music hall, mostly in Birmingham and the Black Country but also including other areas of the country.
You can find out more about Vesta Tilley online here:
Worcestershire County Record Offices Archive Collection relating to Vesta Tilley
BBC Radio Four Womans Hour on Vesta Tilley:
Victoria and AlbertMuseum sources on Music Hall generally and Vesta Tilley in particular:
There are various publications relating to Vesta Tilley (references are to Birmingham Archives and Heritage collections, available from September 2013)
“Recollections of Vesta Tilley” – Lady de Frece (1934) ref L78.1 TIL
“Vesta Tilley” – Sara Maitland (1986) ref: L78.1 TIL
“The Great Little Tilley” – Gwyneth Sudworth (1984) ref: L78.TIL
There are also more sources relating to BirminghamMusic Hall in Birmingham Archives and Heritage including the Manning Theatre Archive (MS 310), the Manning Theatre Index and a large collection theatre programmes for Birmingham theatres.