The children’s home immortalised by John Lennon in The Beatles hit Strawberry Fields Forever is to be redeveloped by the Salvation Army.
An £8m scheme has been unveiled for the home, where Lennon played as a child. The venture will combine an education centre for young people with learning difficulties and an exhibition on the home, the song and Lennon’s early life. The gates at the site, which is closed to the public, are a popular attraction for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool. The plans were announced on the 50th anniversary of the release of the single, which was a double-A side with Penny Lane, reaching number two in the UK charts and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the USA.
The original home in Woolton was demolished in the early 1970s and replaced with a smaller building. Major Drew McCombe, divisional leader for the North West branch of the charity, said: “Strawberry Field is special in the hearts of many people in Liverpool, the UK and across the world, and we at the Salvation Army are aiming to redevelop the site to do justice to the many people that have been supported by the children’s home or formed a connection with the iconic Beatles song.” According to Blue Badge Beatles tour guide Neil McDonald, the gates are one of the must-see Beatles sights in the city. He said: “It is a unique atmosphere. I’ve seen some people burst into tears and even proposals of marriage.” According to Hunter Davies’s biography of The Beatles, one of Lennon’s childhood treats was the garden party that took place each summer on the grounds of Strawberry Field.
‘Nothing to get hung about’
His Aunt Mimi recalled: “As soon as we could hear the Salvation Army band starting, John would jump up and down shouting ‘Mimi, come on. We’re going to be late.'” The musician is said to have found a place of peace and refuge from his troubled childhood in the woods around the home, where he went to play with friends, climb trees and dream the hours away. The song’s refrain “and nothing to get hung about” is said to be a reference to Lennon’s retort “they can’t hang you for it” to Mimi about playing on the property. Official fundraising for the project begins later this year.