Glyndebourne Secrets

A face behind the bamboo

This particular gargoyle was rescued during the demolition of the old theatre. On 28 August 1992 when the backstage area was demolished (the area next to the Ebert Room which is now occupied by the shop), Bunny Best of Best Demolition and Geoff Gash from Bovis watched the gargoyle fall to the ground. Within minutes they had rescued it from the rubble and it was kept safe until the completion of the new theatre when it was included into the brickwork where you see it today,
close to where it originally sat. A photograph of the
gargoyle taken when Bunny and Geoff first discovered it is
available in the archive.

Audrey Mildmay’s plaque

The Audrey Mildmay plaque was originally situated in the Audrey Mildmay Memorial Garden, a dell created in her memory in 1955. The dell was dominated by a horse-chestnut tree and also planted with shrubs and smaller trees. This area of the gardens was sacrificed during the rebuild of the opera house and subsequently re-shaped by Mary Christie and re-named the Bourne Garden. The Audrey Mildmay plaque can now be found outside the Mildmay restaurant.

‘IW’ marked in stone


IW’ stands for Irvine Whitlock, a specialist walling contractors, whose director, Geoff Irvine, gave generous support for the paving and new steps on the Mulberry Terrace. His company were also responsible for the brick and block work for the new theatre and have left their mark here for future generations of opera-goers to Glyndebourne to see.

The mail box


The old theatre had a telephone box and a mail box both of which were situated at the entrance to the Covered Way next to the switchboard and post room. The mail box is from the time of George VI and dates from the late 1930s/early 1940s. It was carefully dismantled before the demolition of the old opera house took place and looked after by specialists before being installed in its present position. There was much debate
as to its new position as it had to be accessible to the postman
and audience and staff alike. There are two collections a day
during the week.

Pugs


There have been pugs in the Christie family since the 1870s, but the first recorded pug, George, belonged to John Christie’s father, Augustus Langham Christie. John Christie, himself also had a pug called George who accompanied him everywhere. George died in 1932 but his successors Sock, Bimperl, Tuppy and others were very familiar to visitors to Glyndebourne during that period. John’s son, Sir George, and
his wife, Lady Christie, also had pugs; Vino, Bertie, Jack, Porgy,
Phoebe, Myrtle to name but a few. Glyndebourne’s current
Executive Chairman Gus Christie has continued the family
tradition with pugs named Dennis and Ian. This little pug statue
can be found in the Organ Room.

The Urn


The Urn gives its name to the Urn Garden in which it can be found. It was given to John Christie in 1955 in memory of his wife, Audrey Mildmay, by Mrs Cicely Ingram. Before it was named the Urn Garden this part of the grounds was known as Glyndebourne’s Rose Garden and during the war it was also used as an extra vegetable garden.Dianthus ‘Mrs Sinkins’ pinks made a low hedge along the paths with shrub roses and
other plants and grasses behind.

The Ebert Room


What is now known as the Ebert Room was originally the old opera house’s rehearsal stage. It was built in 1959 to celebrate Glyndebourne’s 25 th anniversary. It was the first of its kind in the country, and provided Glyndebourne with its first dedicated rehearsal space, with wardrobe storage and workshops below. It closely replicated the footprint of the actual stage, as well as being on the same level, so two operas
could be rehearsed at the same time and, most importantly,
on the actual sets.

Props statues


The statues outside the props department come from various operas over the years. These include a statue of the Emperor and a Roman bust from La clemenza di Tito ,a suitcase from Flight , a memorial statue from Rodelinda , a Madonna and child statue from Betrothal in a Monastery and a giant black statue from The Makropulos Case .

Empty organ


The empty organ in Glyndebourne’s organ room is similar in scale to a cathedral organ. It occupied the full width of the room and was considered to be rather too large for the space. In order to accommodate the main organ stop, a cellar had to be built underneath the floor and the demand on electricity increased so significantly that John Christie had to obtain more plant to keep up with demand. On its first testing the
organ’s vibrations brought down a large piece of plaster from
the ceiling! In 1932 the organ’s mechanism was replaced with an
electric one and part of the original workings were removed and
incorporated into the Brighton Dome Concert Hall organ. In 1953
the organ had to be dismantled to provide much-needed
additional space. The electric internal works were removed and
stored in outbuildings before being transferred to the Guards
Chapel within the Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk in
London. Today only the shell remains.

Sundial


The sundial commemorates the life of Julian Miller, a family friend of the Christies, who died at a tragically young age. Julian spent much of the last year of his life at Glyndebourne as an observer and guest of the Christie family, and the sundial was donated after his death by his family and friends. It was carved by Geoffrey Aldred of Lewes in Stoke Ground limestone in the style of the sundial at Tapeley Park (the
Christie’s home in North Devon). The sundial originally stood in
the centre of the Figaro Garden, but was knocked over and
damaged while in that location and after being repaired it was
moved to the Mildmay Garden.