Once Upon A Time: stories from Lady Brunner's childhood

Greys Court mansion transformed for Mad Hatter's tea party

Come along to Greys Court this summer and witness the fairytale retelling of Lady Brunner’s childhood, and revel in fantasy and imagination. From 26 July until 28 October, the house will be transformed with the childhood memories of its former owner, reimagined in the stories and tales she so loved growing up.

In a land not so far away

Before the Brunners came to Greys Court, there lived a little girl who adored the books her father read to her, and longed for her very own happy ending. Each room will be swathed in light and sound as we bring to life to tales and memories of little Elizabeth Irving in this exhibition of childish delight and wonder.

 ‘My father would always try and spare an hour to read to me…each one was a tremendous treat’

As you walk around the house, we invite you to journey along the winding tale of adventure and mischief of one imaginative little girl, before she became Lady Brunner of Greys Court.

 You will meet ‘Tango’ and ‘Rag Time’, Elizabeth’s pet mice, in a replica of the giant fort built for them by her brother Laurence.

Step into the childish games of a young Elizabeth and Laurence Irving
Little lead soldiers on top of Lady Brunner's books
Step into the childish games of a young Elizabeth and Laurence Irving

The dining room will be transformed into a dream-like Wonderland with a Mad Hatter’s tea party set up on the table and the Cheshire Cat fading in and out on the ceiling.

Elizabeth’s close relationship with her mother and father will also be told through the stories of Peter Pan and Oliver Twist in the bedrooms, along with her path to true love with Sir Felix.

Child of the Theatre

Lady Brunner was born into a family of actors, she had a love for the arts and literature which can be seen in her passions and relationships in early life. The family influence came through in her brother Laurence, who became a successful set designer. Elizabeth herself made her debut as an actress on the London stage at the tender age of 16.

A photograph of Lady Brunner and her father among Mad Hatter's tea party
A photograph of Lady Brunner and her father among Mad Hatter's tea party
A photograph of Lady Brunner and her father among Mad Hatter's tea party

Lady Brunner documented her childhood memories in a book: Child of the Theatre. She opens it with the words:

‘We do not remember childhood – we imagine it. We search for it in vain through layers of obscuring dust.’

Storytelling in the Secret Garden

Rediscover the childhood classics adored by Lady Brunner this summer, as you join our storytellers in the secret garden, an area not normally open to the public.

Sessions run at 1pm and 2.30pm every day of the Summer holidays.

To join onto a storytelling session, ask for a ticket at Visitor Reception for a ticket, free of charge. Tickets are handed out on a first come first served basis, and subject to availability.