Welcome to the Beatles' Childhood Homes. These two small houses in suburban Liverpool are where the Beatles were born: John and Paul grew up here, practiced their music and wrote some of the first songs made famous by the Beatles.
** John Lennon **
251 Menlove Avenue in Liverpool, England, named Mendips, is the childhood home of John Lennon, singer and songwriter with The Beatles. The Grade II listed building is preserved by the National Trust.
The 1930s semi-detached property, which belonged to Lennon's Aunt Mimi and her husband George Smith, is in Woolton, South Liverpool, England. Lennon moved there in July 1946 at the age of five from 9 Newcastle Road, in the nearby suburb of Wavertree. Lennon lived at Mendips after his mother, who was living with her boyfriend, was persuaded that it would be better for his Aunt Mimi and George to take care of him. He remained at Mendips until mid-1963 when he was 22 years old.
Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived at Mendips, 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton with Mimi and her husband George Toogood Smith, who had no children of their own. His aunt purchased volumes of short stories for him, and his uncle, a dairyman at his family's farm, bought him a mouth organ and engaged him in solving crossword puzzles. Julia, his mother, visited Mendips on a regular basis, and when John was 11 years old he often visited her at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool, where she played him Elvis Presley records, taught him the banjo, and showed him how to play Ain't That a Shame by Fats Domino. In September 1980, Lennon commented about his family and his rebellious nature:
'Part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic poet/musician. But I cannot be what I am not ... I was the one who all the other boys' parents, including Paul's father, would say, 'Keep away from him'... The parents instinctively recognised I was a troublemaker, meaning I did not conform and I would influence their children, which I did. I did my best to disrupt every friend's home ... Partly out of envy that I didn't have this so-called home ... but I did... There were five women that were my family. Five strong, intelligent, beautiful women, five sisters. One happened to be my mother. [She] just couldn't deal with life. She was the youngest and she had a husband who ran away to sea and the war was on and she couldn't cope with me, and I ended up living with her elder sister. Now those women were fantastic ... And that was my first feminist education ... I would infiltrate the other boys' minds. I could say, "Parents are not gods because I don't live with mine and, therefore, I know.'
He regularly visited his cousin, Stanley Parkes, who lived in Fleetwood and took him on trips to local cinemas. During the school holidays, Parkes often visited Lennon with Leila Harvey, another cousin, and the threesome often traveled to Blackpool two or three times a week to watch shows. They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss, with Parkes recalling that Lennon particularly liked George Formby.
After Parkes's family moved to Scotland, the three cousins often spent their school holidays together there. Parkes recalled, "John, cousin Leila and I were very close. From Edinburgh we would drive up to the family croft at Durness, which was from about the time John was nine years old until he was about 16." He was 14 years old when his uncle George died of a liver haemorrhage on 5 June 1955 at age 52.
Lennon was raised as an Anglican and attended Dovedale Primary School. After passing his eleven-plus exam, he attended Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool from September 1952 to 1957, and was described by Harvey at the time as a "happy-go-lucky, good-humoured, easy going, lively lad". He of drew comical cartoons that appeared in his own self-made school magazine called The Daily Howl, but despite his artistic talent, his school reports were damning: "Certainly on the road to failure ... hopeless ... rather a clown in class ... wasting other pupils' time."
In 1956, Julia bought John his first guitar. The instrument was an inexpensive Gallotone Champion acoustic for which she "lent" her son five pounds and ten shillings on the condition that the guitar be delivered to her own house and not Mimi's, knowing well that her sister was not supportive of her son's musical aspirations. Mimi was sceptical of his claim that he would be famous one day, and she hoped that he would grow bored with music, often telling him, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it". On 15 July 1958 (when Lennon was 17 years old) his mother was struck and killed by a car while she was walking home after visiting the Smiths' house.
Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations and was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art only after his aunt and headmaster intervened. Once at the college, he started wearing Teddy Boy clothes and acquired a reputation for disrupting classes and ridiculing teachers. As a result, he was excluded from the painting class, then the graphic arts course, and was threatened with expulsion for his behaviour, which included sitting on a nude model's lap during a life drawing class. He failed an annual exam, despite help from fellow student and future wife Cynthia Powell, and was "thrown out of the college before his final year".
At age 15, Lennon formed the skiffle group, the Quarrymen. Named after Quarry Bank High School, the group was established by Lennon in September 1956. By the summer of 1957, the Quarrymen played a "spirited set of songs" made up of half skiffle and half rock and roll. Lennon first met Paul McCartney at the Quarrymen's second performance, which was held in Woolton on 6 July at the St. Peter's Church garden fête. Lennon then asked McCartney to join the band.
McCartney said that Aunt Mimi "was very aware that John's friends were lower class", and would often patronise him when he arrived to visit Lennon. According to Paul's brother Mike, McCartney's father was also disapproving, declaring that Lennon would get his son "into trouble", although he later allowed the fledgling band to rehearse in the McCartneys' front room at 20 Forthlin Road. During this time, 18-year-old Lennon wrote his first song, "Hello Little Girl", a UK top 10 hit for The Fourmost nearly five years later.
McCartney recommended his friend George Harrison to be the lead guitarist. Lennon thought that Harrison, then 14 years old, was too young. McCartney engineered an audition on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, where Harrison played Raunchy for Lennon and was asked to join. Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon's friend from art school, later joined as bassist. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe became "The Beatles" in early 1960.
In August that year, the Beatles engaged for a 48-night residency in Hamburg, Germany and were desperately in need of a drummer. They asked Pete Best to join them. Lennon was now 19, and his aunt, horrified when he told her about the trip, pleaded with him to continue his art studies instead. After the first Hamburg residency, the band accepted another in April 1961, and a third in April 1962. Like the other band members, Lennon was introduced to Preludin while in Hamburg, and regularly took the drug, as well as amphetamines, as a stimulant during their long, overnight performances.
Brian Epstein managed the Beatles from 1962 until his untimely death in 1967. He had no prior experience managing artists, but he had a strong influence on the group's dress code and attitude on stage. Lennon initially resisted his attempts to encourage the band to present a professional appearance, but eventually complied, saying, "I'll wear a bloody balloon if somebody's going to pay me". McCartney took over on bass after Sutcliffe decided to stay in Hamburg, and Pete Best was replaced with drummer Ringo Starr; this completed the four-piece line-up that would entertain millions of fans until the group's break-up in 1970. The band's first single, "Love Me Do", was released in October 1962 and reached No. 17 on the British charts.
They recorded their debut album, Please Please Me, in under 10 hours on 11 February 1963, a day when Lennon was suffering the effects of a cold, which is evident in the vocal on the last song to be recorded that day, "Twist and Shout". The Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership yielded eight of its fourteen tracks. With few exceptions, one being the album title itself, Lennon had yet to bring his love of wordplay to bear on his song lyrics, saying: "We were just writing songs ... pop songs with no more thought of them than that, to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant". In a 1987 interview, McCartney said that the other Beatles idolised John: "He was like our own little Elvis ... We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader; he was the quickest wit and the smartest."
** Paul McCartney **
20 Forthlin Road is a National Trust property in Allerton in south Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It is the house in which Paul McCartney lived for several years before he rose to fame with the Beatles, and it is labelled by the National Trust as "the birthplace of the Beatles". It was also the home of his brother Mike and the birthplace of the group the Scaffold, of which Mike was a member.
The house was built and owned by the local authority, and the McCartney family moved into it in 1955 when Paul was at secondary school. In 1965, Paul bought his father, Jim, a house in a wealthy part of the Wirral.
James Paul McCartney was born on 18 June 1942 in Walton Hospital, Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary Patricia (née Mohin), had qualified to practise as a nurse. His father, James ("Jim") McCartney, was absent from his son's birth due to his work as a volunteer firefighter during World War II. McCartney has one younger brother named Michael. Though the children were baptised in their mother's Catholic faith, their father was a former Protestant turned agnostic, and religion was not emphasised in the household.
McCartney attended Stockton Wood Road Primary School in Speke from 1947 until 1949, when he transferred to Joseph Williams Junior School in Belle Vale because of overcrowding at Stockton. In 1953, with only three others out of ninety examinees, he passed the 11-Plus exam, meaning he could attend the Liverpool Institute, a grammar school rather than a secondary modern school. In 1954, he met schoolmate George Harrison on the bus from his suburban home in Speke. The two quickly became friends; McCartney later admitted: "I tended to talk down to him because he was a year younger."
McCartney's mother, Mary, was a midwife and the family's primary wage earner; her earnings enabled them to move into 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton, where they lived until 1964. She rode a bicycle to her patients; McCartney described an early memory of her leaving at "about three in the morning [the] streets ... thick with snow". On 31 October 1956, when McCartney was fourteen, his mother died of an embolism. McCartney's loss later became a point of connection with John Lennon, whose mother, Julia, had died when he was seventeen.
McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist, who had led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s. He kept an upright piano in the front room, encouraged his sons to be musical and advised Paul to take piano lessons, but Paul preferred to learn by ear. He gave Paul a nickel-plated trumpet for his fourteenth birthday, but when rock and roll became popular on Radio Luxembourg, McCartney traded it for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar, since he wanted to be able to sing while playing.
He found it difficult to play guitar right-handed, but after noticing a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert and realising that Whitman played left-handed, he reversed the order of the strings. McCartney wrote his first song, "I Lost My Little Girl", on the Zenith, and composed another early tune that would become "When I'm Sixty-Four" on the piano. American rhythm and blues influenced him, and Little Richard was his schoolboy idol; "Long Tall Sally" was the first song McCartney performed in public, at a Butlin's Filey holiday camp talent competition.
At the age of fifteen on 6 July 1957, McCartney met John Lennon and his band, the Quarrymen, at the St Peter's Church Hall fête in Woolton. The Quarrymen played a mix of rock and roll and skiffle, a type of popular music with jazz, blues and folk influences. Soon afterwards, the members of the band invited McCartney to join as a rhythm guitarist, and he formed a close working relationship with Lennon.
Harrison joined in 1958 as lead guitarist, followed by Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, in 1960. By May 1960 the band had tried several names, including Johnny and the Moondogs, Beatals and the Silver Beetles. They adopted the name the Beatles in August 1960 and recruited drummer Pete Best shortly before a five-engagement residency in Hamburg.
The Beatles were informally represented by Allan Williams; in 1960, the group booked its first performance at a residency in Hamburg. In 1961, Sutcliffe left the band and McCartney reluctantly became their bass player. While in Hamburg, they recorded professionally for the first time and were credited as the Beat Brothers, who were the backing band for English singer Tony Sheridan on the single "My Bonnie". This resulted in attention from Brian Epstein, who was a key figure in their subsequent development and success. He became their manager in January 1962. Ringo Starr replaced Best in August, and the band had their first hit, "Love Me Do", in October, becoming popular in the UK in 1963, and in the US a year later. The fan hysteria became known as "Beatlemania", and the press sometimes referred to McCartney as the "cute Beatle".
* Visiting *
Note that the tours often include the National Trust property at Speke Hall. There is a combined tour of both properties.
Location : Woolton and Allerton, Liverpool
Transport: Access is by prebooked minibus tour only and visitors arriving at the house will not be allowed access unless part of one of these tours.
Opening Times: Click here for tour times
Tickets : Adults £23.00; Children £7.25
Tel: 0151 427 7231