I AM WELL AWARE that opera is not everyone’s bag but it can be quite fun and you should have a go before knocking it.  It’s just  a case of picking the right opera first time around or you could go badly wrong and be put off for ever!  Opera at Glyndebourne is usually always fun particularly because it has a lengthy interval where one picnics in the gardens. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not necessarily the best part of the opera (honest) – although when you pick the wrong one it certainly is.  Before I became a member of Glyndebourne (after 20 years on the waiting list!) tickets were (and still can be for non-members) difficult to obtain and I’d apply for anything.  This did not always end with a good result ……

Spike Hughes, in his 1965 book, Glyndebourne, starts off by observing, “All Opera Houses are unique, but – as anyone who comes into contact with them soon discovers – some are more unique than others. It is clear from the very first, however, that Glyndebourne was the most unique of all.”  This is very true – and it still is the most unique of all.  So how did it all begin?

Audrey and John Christie – founders of Glyndebourne Opera

The actual house at Glyndebourne in East Sussex is a delight. It dates back to the 15th century but not much, if any, of that is now visible today. Glynde Bourne (as it was in the early days) was part of the manor of Glynde until the 16th century when it was supposedly given as a dowry to Mary Morley on her marriage, in 1589, to John Hay of Herstmonceux (remember that place? – see March 14 post) – although a record of this  has not been found. However, it seemed to have been purchased by Herbert Hay in 1616. It remained in the Hay family-name until 1804 with the death of the last remaining Hay, a spinster, Frances Hay, whereafter it was inherited by a 74 year-old cousin, Canon Francis Tutté (appropriate surname bearing in mind what was to become of the house!). Francis Tutté’s mother was Barbary Hay who had married William Tutté (a barrister).  Francis died in 1824 and the house passed to James Hay Langham (a descendant of Sarah Hay who had married John Langham in 1650).  Get it so far?

Front of Glyndebourne house today (opera theatre behind to the left)

James relinquished the property on succeeding to his father’s baronetcy and moved to the family seat in Northamptonshire (although there was some question of his lunacy, but we won’t go there) and Glyndebourne house went to Langham Christie in accordance with the will of the last Hay sisters, Henrietta and Frances (the latter referred to above).  It was Langham Christie’s son, William, who, after inheriting the property in 1861, made substantial alterations to it in 1870 – he built a brick extension hiding the house’s 17th century flint facade, with additional ornate stone-work and balustrading.  In 1876, decorative brickwork was added to give it the Jacobean appearance as can be seen today (pic above and below).

Rear of Glyndebourne house, with ‘new’ opera theatre (to the right…. obviously)

William also built an Eton fives court with a rough brick floor making it impossible to play on (no comment!).  His grandson, John Christie, said that he (William) had appalling taste (harsh!).  It was John who inherited the house after the death of his grandfather in 1920. And it was John who turned it into an Opera venue. He was an Eton boy and, being fond of music, he held regular amateur opera evenings in the newly built organ room. This 80 ft (24 m) room practically doubled the length of the south facade of the building (the right side of the house in the pic above) and housed one of the largest organs outside a cathedral. This organ was constructed by Hill, Norman & Beard Ltd and purchased by John in 1923. Only the case and console remain in the room today as John donated the soundboard and pipes to the rebuilt Guards Chapel, Wellington, which had been destroyed in the blitz.

The Organ Room and non-working organ

It was at one of these opera evenings that John meet his wife-to-be, the Sussex-born Canadian soprano, Audrey Mildmay, who sang with the Carla Rosa Opera.  They were married in 1931 and on their honeymoon they attended the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals which gave them the idea of bringing professional opera to Glyndebourne. The rest is, as they say, history. Well, sort of ……

Picnicking during the long interval at Glyndebourne

The first performance was in a newly-built 300-seater theatre on the 28th May 1934 and it was Mozart’s le nozze di Figaro followed by his Cosi fan tutte (non-opera readers will now get my reference to Canon Francis Tutté above). This theatre was then enlarged two years later to hold 433 seats; then by 1960, nearly 600 seats; and by 1977, it seated 800.  In 1952 the Glyndebourne Festival Society was formed to manage the opera and was opened up to members (as it is now …. well, the waiting list anyway).

The first opera theatre

John died in 1962 and the house and opera were taken over by his son, George (later, in 1984, Sir George) who continued improving the opera theatre until 1994 when the lavish new theatre was constructed, seating around 1200 people. Sir George retired in 1999 and sadly died last year in May (2014). His son, Gus, took over the opera festival on his father’s retirement (and the house two years after that – they swapped houses) .

The new theatre

Last week was the 50th birthday of my friend, Tracey, and we celebrated it, inter alia, with a visit to Glyndebourne which was performing Bizet’s Carmen which is always good value and rousing fun (well, provided you ignore the plot!).  On that day, it rained most the morning and early afternoon, and it rained all the time during the drive over, but when we arrived the sun came out and stayed out so we were able to picnic in the gardens (whilst the majority who had arrived earlier, when it was raining, had crammed into the covered terraces around the theatre – ha!).


Glyndebourne gardens – Tracey, Simon and myself (above) enjoying the long interval for Bizet’s Carmen (below)

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My nephew, Titus, and his wife, Cordelia, visited the USA and were driving through Louisiana. As they approached Natchitoches, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town. They argued back and forth, then they stopped for lunch at one of those new fast-food restaurants. At the counter, my nephew asked the young waitress, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us?  Would you please pronounce where we are very slowly?” She leaned over the counter and said slowly, “Burrr-gerrr Kiiing.”



George Jeffreys: The Hanging Judge

LAST WEEK I made mention in a footnote of George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, otherwise known as ‘The Hanging Judge’. Well, I thought I would elaborate. Was the ‘hanging judge’ a fair description of the fellow? And who was he?

His grandfather was John Jeffreys who had been Chief Justice of the Anglesey circuit of the Great Sessions, and his father, also John Jeffreys, served as High Sheriff of Denighshire.  His brother, Thomas, was the English Consul in Spain, and his other brother, William, became Vice-Dean of Canterbury. So authority and ambition was certainly in the family. George went to Trinity College, Cambridge, but only lasted a year, leaving without a degree. He entered Inner Temple (remember ‘My Cousin Ralph’, a couple of posts ago?) in 1663 and began his legal career in 1668.

George Jeffreys (1645-89)

In 1671 he was appointed Common Serjeant-at-Law of London (what?) [1]. Trust me , pretty fast promotion. He was knighted in 1677 and became Recorder of London [see fn 1, if you haven’t already] the following year.  By 1680 he had become Chief Justice of Chester and Counsel for the Crown at Ludlow and Justice of the Peace for Flintshire. Charles II created him a baronet in 1681, and by 1683 he was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and a member of the Privy Council.  He was a busy boy (I would say he didn’t ‘hang around’ but that’s an awful pun bearing in mind his nickname … so I won’t say it).

It was when Jeffreys became Lord Chief Justice from 1683 that his conduct began to cause some unease. He presided over the trial of one Algernon Sydney who had been charged with conspiracy to assassinate King Charles II under the Rye House Plot. To establish treason two witnesses were required but the prosecution only had one. However, this didn’t seem to bother Jeffreys much and he ruled that Sydney’s own  writings on republicanism were a sufficient ‘second witness’.  Sydney was found guilty and executed. Good old 17th century justice.

Jeffreys as Lord Chancellor, 1685

By 1685 he had been appointed Lord Chancellor and this is when he picked up the ‘Hanging Judge’ tag. But really due to no fault of his own. He was also made a peer, Baron Jeffreys of Wem (Wem is near Shrewsbury in Shropshire … but you knew that).  In Autumn of 1685, in Taunton, he presided over the trials of the rebels of the Monmouth Rebellion (a West Country plot to overthrow James II – Charles II had died in February of that year). Of the 1381 defendants, it has been suggested that some 700 were found guilty and sentenced to death. In fact, it appears that the more likely figure is between 160 and 170. Regardless, Jeffreys sentenced them all to hang and this event became known as The Bloody Assizes.

Baron Jeffreys of Wem

Why ‘The Hanging Judge’ tag is a little unfair is because Jeffreys had no choice but to sentence them to hang as that was the law at the time for punishment for treason. If anything, the tag should be aimed at (I was going to say ‘hung on’, but …..) the king, James II. He had the Royal Prerogative to reprieve the sentences (which was not unusual) but he chose not to use it on this occasion.

Jeffreys was a very able lawyer but he did have a bit of a reputation as a bad tempered vindictive individual who was often a little worse for wear in court due to drink. He had a painful kidney disease which his doctor suggested he take alcohol to dull the pain (my kind of doctor!) and this may account for his behaviour.

I mentioned the Glorious Revolution in the Outlander post (last month). This is where Parliament passed legislation to prevent a Roman Catholic ruling as king of England and so deposing James II. Well, this took place in 1688 and was not good for Jeffreys, being a ‘James II man’. He tried to escape but was captured disguised as a sailor outside the ‘Town of Ramsgate’ public house in Wapping in London. He was sent to the Tower of London and died of his kidney disease the following year.

So, George Jeffreys, ‘The Hanging Judge’ – fair or what?    You judge …….



[1] The Common Serjeant-at-Law of London is one of the High Officers of the City of London (established in 1291 – the title not London). He is the second most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court after the Recorder of London, acting as deputy to that office, and sitting as a judge in the trial of criminal offences. The 81st incumbent is His Honour Judge Richard Marks, QC, who was appointed on 3rd March 2015.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

One of my students was telling me that neither he nor his parents had ever left their small village until last year.  They had saved money to travel to Oxford for the son’s interview. It was their very first time in a city. They visited a shopping mall and while the mother was shopping, the father and son were standing in awe in front of a lift (or elevator as some call it), having no idea what it was.

As they watched, an elderly lady walked into the strange silver doors and the doors closed. The father and son watched as the numbers went up, and then back down. When the doors opened a beautiful young woman walked out.

My student said that his father leaned over and whispered to the him, “Son, go get your mother!”



The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: Hollywood fact or fiction?

LET’S GO BACK to the Wild West (remember Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill of previous posts?) and meet Judge Roy Bean. The 1972 film starring Paul Newman in the lead and Ava Gardner as Lillie Langtry, is, shall we say, very loosely based on the facts and leave it at that.


So, who was Judge Roy Bean? What of his past? Well, he was born in 1825 in Mason County, Kentucky. At the age of 16 he was obliged to flee to San Antonio in Texas (those of you who read my post on The Alamo last august will recognise that name) and joined his brother, Sam, hauling freight. By 1848, he and Sam had set up a trading post in Chihuahua in New Mexico, but Roy was forced to flee again after shooting and killing a Mexican desperado. He ended up with another brother, Joshua, who had been elected mayor of San Diego in California in 1850.


Judge Roy Bean

All was well until he had a disagreement with a Scotsman named Collins in 1852. The latter challenged Bean to a pistol-shooting match on horseback and gave Bean the option of targets. Bean chose to shoot at each other. Well, why not! Bean won the contest by wounding Collins in the arm but was arrested for assault with intent to murder. Bean escaped incarceration in April and ended up in San Gabriel, still in California, as a bartender in a saloon owned by brother Joshua. In November, Joshua was murdered and Roy inherited the saloon.

In 1854, Bean’s girlfriend was kidnapped and forcibly married to a Mexican officer. Bean tracked him down and challenged him to a duel and killed him. The officer’s colleagues captured Bean and left him on his horse with  a noose around his neck. The horse failed to bolt and Bean’s ‘no longer-kidnapped’ girlfriend cut him free. He was left with a permanent rope burn on his neck and a permanent stiff neck – think himself lucky!


Bean had had enough of California – not proving so lucky – and headed to New Mexico and brother Sam again who had been appointed the first sheriff of Dona Ana County. By 1861 they both ran a store and saloon in Pinos Altos. However, they were then interrupted by the Civil War. Roy joined the Confederates and ran a blockade by hauling cotton from San Antonio to British ships off the coast at Matamoros, then returning with supplies. After the war he remained in San Antonio for the next 20 years working as a teamster in haulage. He combined this work with other activities not entirely legal or successful (he tried a dairy business but watered down the milk; he tried a butchers’ business by rustling stock – you get the idea). By the late 1870s he was running a saloon in Beanville (don’t ask) but this wasn’t to last – he was paid to leave (well, bought out for $900) by a disgruntled store-owner who did not approve of his unscrupulous activities.

Come 1882 he had purchased a tent by the Pecos River (still New Mexico) and set up a saloon for the railroaders. He called the bar the Vinegaroon. This was untamed territory and the nearest court was at Fort Stockton, some 200 miles (320km) away.  Then, in August 1882, he was approached by a Texas Ranger to set up a courthouse and introduce some law and order. This ominous task he accepted and he was ‘appointed’ (perhaps better described as self-appointed) justice of the peace for the new Precinct 6 in Pecos County, and, along with his one and only law book, the 1879 edition of the Revised Statutes of Texas [1], he did, indeed, deal out justice – of a kind – and called himself ‘The Law West of the Pecos’.

Judge Bean with beard behind bicycle front wheel 

I always thought he had a bit of a reputation as a hanging judge [2]. In fact this was not so at all. It appears that he only ever sentenced two men to hanging and one of them escaped. The death penalty was standard for horse thieves but Bean let them go provided they returned the horse [3]. Anyway, trials were always good for business as he insisted all jurors (chosen from his best customers) bought drinks during a court recess.

On a legal technicality note, a saloon-owner competitor of Bean’s sold land at Langtry (as it was to be called) to the railway with a contractual term that no land was to be sold or leased to Bean. Bean got around this by setting up his saloon tent (he called the Jersey Lilly after Lillie Langtry) on a railway right-of-way not covered by the contract, and here he squatted for the next two decades. This legal loop-hole was not of his own discovery but by an Irishman, Paddy O’Rourke, who was repaying Bean for freeing him after he had murdered a migrant worker.

Jersey Lilly Saloon, Judge Roy Bean holding court in 1900. Bean is in the centre of the photograph, wearing hat, sitting on a barrel and holding open his law book. 

There was no jail in Langtry so Bean only ever fined culprits, the money he kept for himself. He calculated some amounts of fines based on how much the defendant had in his pocket at the time. His court did not have the power to grant divorces but this minor detail did not stop Bean. He would charge $10 for a divorce and again pocket the’ fee’, along with $5 for weddings. I wonder if he ever offered a package deal?

The saloon is still there today!

Bean won re-election to his post in 1884, but was defeated in 1886. The following year, the commissioner’s court created a new precinct in the county and appointed Bean to be the new justice of the peace. He continued to be elected until 1896. Even after that defeat, he refused to surrender his seal and law book and continued to try all cases that suited him in his own ‘precinct’. It’s not quite clear what the justice who was elected was doing.

In March 1903, after a bout of heavy drinking in San Antonio, he died peacefully in his bed, aged 77-78. Could have been worse …..



[1] When newer law books showed up, Bean used them as kindling.

[2] The real so-called ‘hanging judge’ was a Welshman called George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem (1645-89).

[3] Reminds me of the Artemus Smith extract from 28th July 2014 post (following ‘House of the Virgin Mary)!


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

I encountered my good friend, Professor Rolande Circumspeque, in the Senior Common Room the other day in fits of laughter. I enquired as to the reason for such mirth and he showed me an article in The Monthly Planet, an aerospace journal he was perusing. It read:

‘When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity.
To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300° C.’

“Interesting,” I commented, “but why do you find that so amusing.”

He replied, “The Russians use a pencil.” 




My Cousin Ralph

IN AN EARLIER POST (December 24) I talked about my Inn of Court, Middle Temple. Well, a distant cousin on my father’s side, one Judge Ralph Reynolds Garlick, was a member of Inner Temple. So let’s say something about Inner Temple – it has a fine Hall which, although originally dated back to the Middle Ages, had been demolished in 1868, just before the birth of Cousin Ralph. It was rebuilt only to be destroyed by bombing in the last war (as was Middle Temple) and then rebuilt again to an impressive standard in 1952.

Inner Temple Hall today

Anyway, let me tell you about Cousin Ralph. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1876 and was educated at the King Edward VI School and went on to study a BA at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was admitted as a student to the Inner Temple on the 7th April 1910 at the age of 34 (a late starter like me – nothing wrong with that). So he would have witnessed Inner Temple Hall as the 1868 rebuild. Having qualified as a barrister, he went forth to India in 1900 and served in Bengal as assistant magistrate. Five years later he was transferred to Eastern Bengal and Assam, but returned to Bengal in 1912 and, a year later, became a district and session judge. In 1928 he held an appointment as an officiating judge of the Calcutta High Court.

The medieval Inner Temple Hall – being taken down here in 1868 and replaced by a larger Gothic Hall which was later destroyed by enemy action in 1941

In December 1930 in Calcutta, a Bengali rebel, Dinesh Gupta, murdered Lieut-Colonel Simpson, the British Inspector General of Prisons (admittedly infamous for the brutal oppression on the prisoners in his jails). Gupta was captured after trying to shoot himself and, in February the following year, Cousin Ralph was a member of the tribunal that sentenced Gupta to death by hanging.

Dinesh Gupta 1.jpg

Dinesh Chandra Gupta (1911-1931)

Sometime in mid-July 1931, Cousin Ralph received a letter threatening his life. As a result two police sergeants and several detectives were stationed in his courtroom. Ralph was undeterred by such threats and resolved to carry on his work regardless.


Cousin Ralph in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to India

On the 27th July, in Alipore, Calcutta, Judge Ralph returned to his courtroom after lunch to resume an earlier case. As he did so, Bimal Das Gupta (a Bengali architect) drew a revolver and fired at the judge from the far end of the court. The shot missed its mark but Gupta rushed up the court to the witness-box and fired again killing Cousin Ralph instantly with a bullet to the head.

The trial room, Alipore Sessions Court

According to the newspaper reports the police opened fire and the assassin was killed on the spot, although one policeman was injured. Bimal Das Gupta was a ‘wanted’ man following the murder of a somewhat unpleasant Mr James Peddie, district magistrate at Midanpore, in April.  A letter found in Gupta’s pocket stated that the murder was intended as a reprisal for the sentencing to death by Mr Ralph Garlick of Dinesh Gupta (Dinesh was Bimal’s mentor). The letter simply read, “Thou shalt be destroyed. This is the reward for the injustice done to Dinesh Gupta” and was signed by Bimal.

A short time before Cousin Ralph had decided to apply for leave preparatory to retirement and would have been coming home in the not too distant future.

The Court House at Calcutta (Illustrated London News)

William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount of Stansgate, Secretary of State for India, (and father of Tony Benn – remember him?), read a telegram in the House of Commons announcing the murder: “Regret to have to report that Judge Garlick, Session Judge, Alipore, was shot dead to-day in court by assassin at present unknown, who was himself killed by guard.”  Benn added, “The House, will, I am sure, desire to express its sincere sympathy with the relatives of this officer.”

William Wedgewood-Benn.jpg

William Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India, 1929-31

Interesting the telegram said ‘assassin at present unknown’.  As late as 18th September 1931, The Straits Times (‘India, Burma and Ceylon Week by Week’) ran an advertisement saying:    “MR GARLICK’S MURDERER   Rs. 500 for identification of photograph.     A reward of Rs. 500 is offered for the identification of the photograph of the murderer of Mr R. R. Garlick, late District and Sessions Judge of 24 Pergannas.  The amount originally announced was Rs. 150, but it has now been increased to Rs. 500.”

Bearing in mind the authorities were already looking for Bimal Das Gupta for the suspected murder of Peddie and found the aforementioned note referring to revenge for the death of Dinesh Gupta in Cousin Ralph’s assassin’s pocket, it all rather pointed to Bimal. And the newspaper reports clearly blamed him at the time. However, Bimal’s father denied that the body of the assassin was his son’s – hence the offer of the reward.

In fact, in a 2012 report, The Revolutionaries, by Rhituparna Basu, it appears that Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) volunteered to assassinate the head of the European Association at the Writers’ Building (an anti-Indian independence organisation). Bimal only wounded his target and was arrested and tried for the murder of Peddie. Although no witnesses came forward he was still found guilty but spared the death penalty and sentenced to life-imprisonment on the notorious Andaman Islands penal colony. The report does not mention the date of the incarceration but goes on to say that Bimal was set free in 1939 when political events led to a release of political prisoners.

So, who shot Cousin Ralph?

Well, according to Manoshi Bhattacharya (in her books, Chittagong: Summer of 1930, published 2012; and sequel Eye of the Tiger: Chittagong, published 2014) it was Kanai Bhattacharya who pretended to be Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) and killed Ralph Garlick.  Also she says the assassin was not shot by the police but died by taking a cyanide pill before he was overpowered. I’m not entirely sure what Kanai hoped to achieve by this deception. But that’s politics – or something.

Although I followed Cousin Ralph’s footsteps to Oxford and to the Bar as a barrister, I’m not planning to follow them any further by becoming a judge (no point in pushing my luck ….)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is an extract:

I had advertised for a new undergraduate researcher in archaeology for my College. I was reaching the end of the interview with one young hopeful, fresh out of university, when I asked him, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” He replied, “In the region of £60,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

I replied, “Well, what would you say to a package of ten weeks paid vacation, full medical and dental care, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a Porsche Boxster?”

The young lad sat up straight and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?”

I responded, “Yep, but you started it.”