BAYLIS, Lilian (1874-1937)
Plaque erected in 1974 by Greater London Council at 27 Stockwell Park Road, Stockwell, London, SW9 0AP, London Borough of Lambeth
Theatre and Film
LILIAN BAYLIS 1874-1937 Manager of the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatres lived and died here
Lilian Baylis managed the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres and laid the foundation for both the National Theatre and the English National Opera. For most of her management career she lived at 27 Stockwell Park Road in Lambeth.
THE OLD VIC
Born in Marylebone, Baylis was one of the outstanding personalities in the chequered history of the Old Vic Theatre, Waterloo. Her aunt, Emma Cons, had saved the theatre from ruin by turning it into a temperance music hall but Baylis – who became acting manager in 1898 and took full responsibility following Cons’s death in 1912 – was able to establish its reputation for high-quality theatrical performance.
Together with Ben Greet, Baylis is credited with putting Shakespeare back at the heart of the English repertoire. Over the course of seven years she staged every single Shakespeare play – the first person in history to do so. Performances continued throughout the First World War, despite the threat posed by zeppelin attacks. She dismissed the raids with characteristic bravado, declaring, ‘What’s an air raid when my curtain’s up!’.
Baylis moved into 27 Stockwell Park Road with her aunt, Emma Cons, in 1914, and remained there until her death in 1937. While at the address she realised the need for a second venue to run alongside the Old Vic, and by 1931 had successfully raised funds to renovate Sadler’s Wells Theatre. She turned the theatre into a home for her ballet and opera companies, enlisting Dame Ninette de Valois to take charge of the ballet productions. The company of ballerinas which de Valois founded there later became known as The Royal Ballet.