Lilian Baylis


Lilian Baylis came to The Old Vic in 1897 to assist her Aunt Emma Cons in the day-to-day management of The Old Vic. For the next 40 years, she was the driving force behind the theatre until her death on 25 November 1937.

During her time at The Old Vic, she also ran a campaign to re-open a then derelict Sadler’s Wells and founded the companies which would become the English National Opera and The Royal Ballet.

80 years ago today, Olivier was leading The Old Vic Company in a production of Macbeth on the eve of the rescheduled opening night when an exhausted Lilian suffered a heart attack and passed away.

‘That streak of light, if it may stand for a symbol of her presence, must never go out’

Harcourt Williams

Ninette de Valois remembered that each season, a famously frugal Lilian Baylis would give each member of the company a sprig of heather to mark the beginning of the season. At the start of the Autumn season in 1937, she chose to give the company rosemary, for remembrance.