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Welwyn Garden City

 

From Cabbages to Kings

The Autobiography of Lisa Sheridan

Author: Lisa Sheridan

Published: 1955 by Odhams Press Limited

Format: Hardback 10" by 7½" with 176 pages
 

 
 
 

The early part of the book deals with Lisa's childhood, but the bulk of it is about her period as photographer of the royal family; there is not much in it about her personal life. In the dedication of the book she writes "I dedicate this book to Jimmy, my husband and partner, without whom Studio Lisa could not have been built, and who so good-naturedly is willing to take a back seat in these memoirs".

I have read elsewhere that Sheridan was a stage surname chosen by Lisa's actress daughter Dinah, and that her parents were really James and Lisa Mec pronounced "Mess". Written inside the front cover of my copy of the book by a previous owner, is "Lisa Sheridan née Budenburg died Jan. 1966". I have located a death record in the GRO for a Lisa C. Sheridan in Folkestone Registration District for 1966 first quarter, age 72 years.

Since writing the above I have been contacted by a number of people related to Lisa who have given me information about her origins. In fact, Lisa's maiden name was EVERTH. Her mother's maiden name was BUDENBERG. Her husband Jimmy's surname was MEC before he changed it to GINSBURG on being adopted by his uncle Moshe Ginsburg in 1915. Lisa and Jimmy were married in 1916 in Paris, and apparently used the surname GINSBURG after marriage. The births of both their chidren were registered with the surname Ginsburg. Much later the family name was changed to SHERIDAN when Dinah became an actress.

I have used the information given to me by my contacts to prepare a chart showing Lisa's family tree. Scroll down for a link to display the chart.

 
 
Photograph of Lisa from the book
 

 

 
Synopsis
 
 

In the book, Lisa describes her father as an author and artist in Forest Hills, London, living what sounds like an unconventional or bohemian lifestyle. He took Lisa on frequent visits abroad. At the age of 10, she was sent to live with her aunt Lina and uncle William Hartley in St Petersburg. There is no explanation of why she was sent away from home. She recounts how she made the journey alone by train, and that while waiting for a connection in Berlin went to Berlin Zoo accompanied only by her life-size toy chimpanzee Wallyplug.

She remained in Russia for a number of years taught by a governess. Later she attended school in England returning to Russia for holidays in the summer and at Christmas. When in Russia she once met Tolstoi when visiting Prince Volkonski, a friend of her aunt and uncle. When on the steps of the Hermitage Art Gallery she backed into the Czar's horse on which he was seated before being hurried away. In 1914, she encountered Rasputin who put his face through her carriage door on a train journey from St Petersburg to Archangel where she was due to pick up an American liner bound for England.

She married her husband Jimmy during the Great War in Paris, where she remained while he went to the front. He was injured and had to be nursed back to health. They returned to England and rented a cottage in Hampstead Garden Suburb living on his earnings as a chemist's assistant. There they had two daughters - Jill and Dinah. In contrast to a very perfunctory treatment of these important events in her personal life, there is a detailed description of a visit she made at this time to 145 Piccadilly, the home of the Duke and Duchess of York. Lisa's mother was friends with a Mrs Macdonald who worked there as a servant. Lisa went with her mother on the visit to Mrs MacDonald, and while there was briefly shown the baby Princess Elizabeth.

From Hampstead, the family moved to Broadstairs (no date given). Jimmy was now a bank clerk working in London. Lisa and her husband took up photography more seriously and acquired their first enlarger. They began entering photographs into newspaper competitions and won a number of prizes. The breakthrough came following the publication in an evening paper (not named) of a nude photograph of their youngest daughter Dinah when aged 11. Lisa was summoned to London by the art editor of this paper, and was offered photographic work. Much of their early work consisted of photographing food for women's magazines (hence "cabbages" in the title of the book). One of the magazine editors invented the name Studio Lisa.

Because they were making money from photography, Lisa and Jimmy decided to work at it full time, and Jimmy gave up his job, and there followed a period when he would work at home in the studio and darkroom, while Lisa went up to London to get the orders.

They then made the move to Welwyn Garden City. According to Lisa, a move was necessary because the house in Broadstairs was too small, and because the place was not suitable for their children who were now fourteen and sixteen years of age. Why Welwyn Garden City was chosen is not made clear except to say that London or a conventional suburb would not suit. Lisa describes how she was shown a house in Parkway and immediately decided it would be an ideal place to build a studio.

All the rooms of the house were decorated in such a way that they could be used for photographic shots requiring a domestic setting. The garden was treated similarly. Lisa talks of building a studio, but does not make it clear if she meant constructing a building separate from the house, or was just referring to the house itself. This vagueness on detail is quite annoying. There is a very brief account of the War years spent in WGC.

Then (chapter three) Lisa recounts her chance meeting in a railway carriage on the way to London with a slight acquaintance who offers her out of the blue the opportunity to take some photographs of the Princess Elizabeth. Shortly after, a man knocked at their door summoning them to The Royal Lodge, Windsor, the following day. There follows a description of this visit which was in 1936 before the abdication. The Yorks were photographed in the garden with the dogs.

The rest of the book (about two thirds of its bulk) comprises descriptions of visits to various royal residences and the photographic sessions which took place there. Perhaps that is what Lisa thought her readers would be most interested in; or perhaps she just wanted to preserve her own family's privacy by her perfunctory treatment of her own personal life.

The last few pages contain accounts of her meetings with other notables to take their photographs - George Bernard Shaw, John Masefield, A. A. Milne, George Lansbury, C. Day Lewis, Flora Robson, Julian Huxley, and so on.


The book is illustrated with 82 black and white photographs, all by Lisa or her husband, almost half being portraits of members of the royal family.


Lisa's younger daughter, Dinah Sheridan, married the actor Jimmy Hanley (1918-1970). Dinah and Jimmy's son, Jeremy Hanley (b. 1945), was MP for Richmond, and was chairman of the Conservative Party 1994-5. Jeremy's sister, Jenny Hanley (b. 1947), presented the children's television program Magpie.

 
 

 

 
 

Brian Mclacklin has contacted me with the following information:

"My father was a Commercial Artist and started up an Artist Studio* soon after the war and ran it at 15 Grape Street, London, WC2., and had it there until about 1964. He employed on average 15 inside staff in his studio and had about the same number of Freelance chaps that he acted as an agent for. The building had 4 floors and he had the two top floors and under him was Studio Lisa, on the first two floors. He used to use Lisa Sheridan for quite a lot of his photographic work. He told me all about Lisa Sheridan, and the fact that she was appointed as The Royal Photographer at one stage, and that Dinah Sheridan of Genevieve fame was her daughter."

*The studio was Douglas McClacklin Studio Ltd., Artists' Agents, Studio Service and Photography

 
 

 

 
Images from the book
 
 

This unrehearsed photograph of Dinah "the lady of the bath" was taken at Castle House, Broadstairs, and unexpectedly launched us on a career as professional photographers.
 
 
 

Our studio in Welwyn Garden City displays the Royal Arms; the Union Jack flies in honour of Princess Anne's fourth birthday.
 
 
 

Arranging food for photography: we find it wise keep this sticky and chaotic work clear of other commitments.
 
 

 

 
Lisa Sheridan family tree chart
 
 
I have used the information given to me by my contacts to prepare a chart showing Lisa's family tree. Click here to view the chart which is in PDF format and will be displayed in a separate window. Once the chart is displayed you will need to click the (+) button several times (or CTRL-plus) in order to enlarge it sufficiently to make the print readable. If you haven't got the Adobe reader it can be downloaded free from the Adobe website here.
 
 

 

 
More from elsewhere on my website
 
 

Studio Lisa advertisement from the 1953/54 Welwyn Garden City handbook which also has a short article about Studio Lisa. The handbook can be viewed by clicking here.
 
 
 

The garden picture from New Towns after the War by F. J. Osborn (1942, Dent), which can be viewed by clicking here. Does this picture show the Sheridans in the garden of their Parkway home with Dinah on the right ?
 
 
 

Cartoon of Lisa from Who's What in Welwyn (Garden City), 1938, which can be viewed by clicking here.
 
 
 
 

Lisa's 1938 book The Magic Train, which can be viewed by clicking here.