Beatles fans will soon get to go through the red gates at Strawberry Field in Liverpool, made famous by John Lennon’s famous song. Every year, over 60,000 tourists stop by the iconic gates but were never allowed inside to visit the famous grounds. The Salvation Army plans to change that with a new visitor center anticipated to open in 2020.
The famous Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, written by John Lennon and released in 1967, made this site a must-see for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool, along with Penny Lane, The Cavern, and Lennon and McCartney’s childhood homes, to name a few. The new visitor center will include a special exhibition about John Lennon’s connection to the site, as well as a cafe and gardens.
“The plans to open Strawberry Fields to the public for the first time – so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child – is very exciting,” said Lady Judy Martin OBE, widow of Beatles’ producer, George Martin.
Strawberry Field was a manor house situated on Beaconsfield Road, Woolton. It was originally owned by Liverpool merchants and donated to the Salvation Army upon their deaths in the 1930s. The house and grounds were used as an orphanage for girls starting in 1935. Boys were first housed at the orphanage starting in the 1950s.
As a child, Lennon famously jumped over the wall into the Strawberry Field grounds, where he played with the children who lived there and attended their annual summer garden party. Lennon’s childhood home, Mendips, was just a short walk from Strawberry Field in Woolton, Liverpool.
“Him and a group of lads used to come and whistle at the girls,” recalled Major Ida Cawthorne. “And unfortunately we had a very large tree in the garden with a thick, thick branch that they used to sit on and whistle to the girls.”
John Lennon, age 8, with cousin Stanley Parkes
The children’s home closed in 2005. In 2011, the original gates to Strawberry Field were put in storage “to avoid further deterioration and damage.” The 100-year-old wrought iron gates were replaced by replicas. In June 2017, the original gates were put on display at The Beatles Story in Liverpool to raise awareness about The Salvation Army’s plans for Strawberry Field.
According to the official Strawberry Field website, Lennon was a supporter of The Salvation Army, with a particular interest in Strawberry Field throughout his life, donating thousands of dollars over the years to the charity after the release of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
After Lennon was murdered in 1980, his widow, Yoko Ono, brought their son Sean to visit Strawberry Field in January 1984. Yoko and Sean visited with the children at the orphanage and brought them gifts. Later that year, Ono made a donation of $90,000 to the orphanage. She also worked with the City of New York to re-name a section of Central Park “Strawberry Fields” in 1985.
Since 2005, Strawberry Field has been used for various projects as a community center. Along with the construction of a new visitor center which will be open to tourists from around the world, The Salvation Army now has plans to create a learning center at Strawberry Field where children with learning disabilities can receive vocational training.
“As custodians of the site for the people of Liverpool and Beatles fans the world over, we want to transform Strawberry Field and re-open it for the good of young people in the North West who need support, and so that the wider community can, for the first time, access a site that belongs to them,” said Major Drew McCombe, Divisional Leader for The Salvation Army, North West.
Starting in January 2018, demolition of the current buildings began to make way for the new visitor center. The buildings being demolished were built in the 1970s after fire damage led to the demolition of the original “Strawberry Field” mansion. Ironically, the original Victorian mansion looked a lot like The Dakota apartment building where John Lennon lived the last 7 years of his life.
The original Strawberry Field manor
The Salvation Army launched a fundraising campaign in November 2017 urging the public to donate to help make the new vision a reality. On their official website (http://www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com), you can donate and also order Strawberry Field merchandise like the t-shirts shown in the video below:
January 23, 2018 at 8:11 pm
Please charge a small entrance fee so the area can be kept clean
When I was there it was like a rubbish tip shame on people with no respect
Perth Western Australia
Sent from my iPhone