Lilian Baylis in Wardrobe

Lilian Baylis in Wardrobe

Lilian Baylis was one of the greatest pioneers in the history of the British Theatre. She came to England from South Africa to help her aunt, Emma Cons, run the Old Vic Theatre in putting on popular temperance concerts for the working class, offering an alternative to the pub. She then took over its management after her aunt's death.

While Baylis was also committed to staging affordable theatre, she saw no reason why the inhabitants of Waterloo should not enjoy Shakespeare, opera and ballet. Under her management, every Shakespeare play was produced between 1913 and 1923 and she staged operas and ballets at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells. Her work laid the foundation for both the National Theatre and the English National Opera. In 1928 she employed Ninette de Valois who created the ballet company that would eventually become the Royal Ballet.

In 1924 Lilian Baylis (pictured here in Wardrobe - where costumes are made - in the centre with the spotted silk jacket) was awarded an honorary Master's degree from Oxford University (only the second woman to receive one) and in 1929, she became a Companion of Honour, an honour awarded for service to the nation.