Glyndebourne Secrets

A face behind the bamboo

A face behind the bambooThis 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

PlaqueThe 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

Initials'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

MailboxThe 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. 


PugThere 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

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 25th 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.



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.



Among "Glyndebourne Secrets" must surely lie the delightful green bronze statue of the boy, Papageno, with his Magic Flute. Personally I was sorry when it went away, and I'd like to know where it is now and if it is ever on public display. It is a treasured memory of Glyndebourne for me.

I shall be looking out for these this summer when I come to see The Fairy Queen.


How sad to see various Americanisms in your very helpful checklist. Traditionally in England we say 'railway station' (not train station) and 'transport' (not transportation which is meaningless).

From Glyndebourne

Thank you for the update of the name Dianthus 'Mrs Sinkins'. We've updated this above.

Thank you so much for such wealth of information, thoughtfulness, beauty. I look forward to yet one more season at Glyndebourne, it feels as if it must be nearly the 40th, at least.

Wearing my proof-reader's hat, I couldn't help noticing the misspelling of the name of the pinks that were grown in the Urn Garden. The correct name is Dianthus 'Mrs Sinkins'. This lady was the wife of the cultivar's raiser, John Sinkins, who was Master of the Workhouse at Slough in 1868, when he named the plant after his wife. Slough honoured the flower with the inclusion of a bloom in the beak of the swan on Slough's official crest.

Fascinating! I shall look out for some of these on my next visit/ Thank you. Kate Fussell

Having work at Glyndebourne in the mid 60s with the Bert Pullen
backstage staff, I really eagerly devour all information on your site to do with Glyndebourne. I regard my time there as the best
days of my life.
Keep up the excellent work.

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