On Friday 30 March, I went on the National Trust’s Beatles Childhood Homes tour, visiting 20 Forthlin Road Allerton, and Mendips on Menlove Avenue, Woolton.
It was a very memorable and quite moving experience as we got to see the actual rooms where the Beatles met and wrote some of their early hits. There were some marvellous family photographs which brought us very close to the early lives of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The commentary by the two guides at each of the houses was perceptive and often based on conversations with Beatles members or their friends and family.
Booking on the tour is the only way to access the two houses and transport is in a National Trust minibus. I took the 2.15pm tour from outside Jury’s Inn Hotel near the Albert Dock. Our friendly driver told us there would be music playing on the speakers by a particular band and it wasn’t the Rolling Stones!
After a journey of about 20 minutes we arrived at 20 Forthlin Road, the house where Paul McCartney lived during the years up till the Beatles’ rise to fame. The first thing you notice is how different it looks to the other houses on the street. This is because it was restored to an approximation of how it looked when Paul McCartney and his parents and brother lived there. Original windows have been put back and the exterior was repainted.
Inside, the rooms are all decorated in the style of the time. For me it was like a journey into my own childhood. Even if only for a fleeting moment, the years seemed to have been swept away and I was able to recapture the distinctive atmosphere and aura of the late 50s. The superb black and white photos by Mike McCartney capture Paul and John as they rehearsed their early songs. The photos from earlier years show a typical family at home or on holiday. Gazing into the living room I really felt I as if I was there in the late fifties during a family music session with Paul’s dad at the piano, and Paul on the armchair, strumming a guitar and singing.
Photos are strictly prohibited inside both houses and I think it’s a good idea. It helps to preserve the historic value of the interiors and everything they stand for. So instead, with blink of both eyes, I made a mental snapshot of the living room at Paul’s house. I can still see the Chinese wallpaper, the armchairs, the quaint side table and old fashioned tv, with Mike McCartney’s photos on the wall.
Our guide was very knowledgeable. Both she and her husband, who is based at “Mendips” have personal contacts with Beatles members and their friends.
After an all too brief stay at 20 Forthlin Road, we returned to the minibus, and made the short journey up to Menlove Avenue and Mendips, the semi-detached house that was John Lennon’s home from 1945 to 1963.
As we soon discover, the stern character of his aunt Mimi left its stamp on both John and the house. She forbade him to enter by the front door and so after our guide took photos (see mine lower right) we walked round to the back door and the kitchen. Our guide gave a quiet and thoughtful account of their lives at the house, and we soon got a very vivid and touching picture of the trials and tribulations they faced.
First impressions of Mendips are that it is quite grand in comparison to Forthlin Road, and it has less of a family feel. This, as we learned, is because Aunt Mimi was obliged for financial reasons, to let some of the rooms to students.
As at Forthlin Road I took a mental picture of the ornate living room, which was only used for special guests, although Aunt Mimi allowed John’s skiffle band The Quarrymen to rehearse there.
The highpoint of the visit was a glimpse of John Lennon’s tiny bedroom at the front of the house. This is where in his early years he lay dreaming, and wrote his first songs. On the bed there is a guitar, a collection of books and records, posters on the wall of Brigitte Bardot and Elvis and other memorabilia.
And that was the end of an all to brief visit to the home of John Lennon, which was presented to the National Trust as a gift by Yoko Ono Lennon.
The visit has left many impressions and brought back many memories of my own from that time. I wish it was possible just to sit back, relax and have tea with the young John and Aunt Mimi! All we can do is… imagine!
For more information and to book on a tour, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles/