History of the Beatles' Childhood Homes
Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road are the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. What happened within their walls created one of the most influential bands in music history. Find out more about these houses and the history of their inhabitants.
The homes that led to a phenomenon
Inside the walls of two ordinary houses in suburban Liverpool, two families experienced love and tragedy.
Upstairs in their bedrooms, two boys would find an escape from grief and hardship in music. Their shared passion led them to meet, and out of chaos came creativity and a lifelong musical partnership.
What eventually emerged from the front doors of these unassuming houses would go on to become a global cultural phenomenon, sparking a revolution in music and identity which shaped a generation.
These are the bricks that built the Beatles.
John Lennon and Mendips
In 1946, following his parents' separation, John Lennon came to live at Mendips with his Aunt Mimi and her husband, George Smith, who had no children of their own. Paul McCartney remembers Mendips as ‘one of the almost posh houses’ in the Woolton area of Liverpool.
Together, no-nonsense Aunt Mimi and softer-hearted Uncle George provided the loving and stable home that John badly needed. Aunt Mimi kept Mendips immaculately tidy, and John remembered his childhood here as a generally happy time.
However, it was also marked by tragedy. On 15 July 1958, John's mother Julia, a frequent visitor to Mendips, was visiting for tea with her sister. While crossing the road to catch a bus home she was hit by a car and killed.
Though he did not show it at ﬁrst, her death aﬀected John deeply. It also strengthened his bond with Paul, who had lost his own mother in 1956.
Paul McCartney and 20 Forthlin Road
20 Forthlin Road was just under a mile away from Mendips, but the two houses sat in different social worlds: Mendips with its grand name while 20 Forthlin Road was simple social housing.
Paul’s mother Mary was houseproud, right down to the Sanderson designer wallpaper which she hung in the parlour, carefully pieced together from inexpensive roll-ends.
However, life at the house was also marked by loss. Mary died from breast cancer in October 1956, while Paul was 14 years old and his younger brother, Mike, only 12.
With their father Jim now working full-time to raise two sons, the family began to struggle. Aunts and uncles stepped in to support and helped the family with meals and chores during their weekly visits.
A chance meeting that changed history
Joining John's band
It was on a July afternoon in 1957 that a 15-year-old Paul McCartney met a young John Lennon at St Peter’s Church fete, where John was performing with his first band, The Quarrymen.
John was not easily impressed, but he'd been looking for a better guitarist for his group and here was someone who could really tune and play the instrument. John asked Paul to join The Quarrymen, and their musical partnership was born.
When Paul started visiting Mendips, Aunt Mimi liked him for his good manners and would call up to her nephew's bedroom: ‘John, your little friend’s here’. The pair would spend hours sat on John’s bed, learning how to play songs and compose their own.
Decamping to 20 Forthlin Road
As much as Aunt Mimi liked Paul, she disliked the noise their rehearsals made. She banished The Quarrymen to practise in the front porch – drumkit and all.
This became awkward, especially as Paul played left-handed so the necks of his and John’s guitars clashed in the small space. In the end, it was easier to practise at Forthlin Road while Paul’s dad was out.
In the parlour of 20 Forthlin Road, Paul and John would further practise and develop ideas, then present them to the band – which as of 1958 also included George Harrison. She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and Love Me Do all came into being here.
Over the next four years, the band changed their name to the Beatles, drummer Ringo Starr joined in 1962, later that year their first single Love Me Do was released - and the rest is history.
What came forth from 20 Forthlin Road
What started in 20 Forthlin Road spread from home to home, radio to radio, and record player to record player, reaching out across the nation and then the world. The music that first took shape in these rooms helped spark something into life: a transformation of what it meant to be young.
The 1960s saw the birth of youth culture. Spearheaded by the Beatles and Beatlemania (the fan-culture surrounding the early years of the band), music gave a generation of young people a way to express how they were different from their parents.
The Beatles' music helped create this vibrant new popular culture, one in which the youth generation had its own identity, and permission to do things differently from what had gone before.
By 1965, the effect was so strong that it led the then editor of Vogue magazine, Diana Vreeland, to coin the term ‘youthquake’ to describe how British youth culture was redrawing the map of music and fashion.
Politicians were also quick to capitalise on the cultural shift. Later that same year, Prime Minister Harold Wilson shocked the establishment by awarding the Beatles with MBEs. It was a move many thought won him the following election.
This is the lasting legacy of Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road: young people who had permission to be creative and different, and helped give an entire generation permission to do the same. A message spreading from home to home, person to person, and now generation to generation.
Caring for these houses for everyone, for ever
Although he was away a lot with the band, Mendips remained home for John. It was here Aunt Mimi kept his OBE, although, ever the rebel, John returned the medal in 1969.
Despite John’s stardom, Aunt Mimi never let his fame change her. She was proud of her nephew’s achievements, but to her, John would always be the wayward but essentially soft-hearted teenager in need of firm guidance.
Often taking pity on the fans who had travelled hundreds of miles for a sight of his childhood home, she would invite them in for tea and sandwiches, but had to start locking the kitchen door to stop them stealing crockery as souvenirs.
In 1965, Aunt Mimi left Mendips to retire to Poole in Dorset, and although John would have liked to have kept the house, it was sold.
However, in 2002 his wife Yoko Ono heard the house was up for sale. She decided to buy it and donate it to the National Trust, so it would be well looked after as a place for people to visit and experience where it all began.
20 Forthlin Road
20 Forthlin Road remained the McCartneys' home for several years. At the height of the Beatles' fame, Paul had moved to London while brother Mike still lived with their father at 20 Forthlin Road, where Beatles fans would gather on the pavement outside.
In 1964, Paul bought his father a house in Heswall overlooking the Dee Estuary. They moved out of 20 Forthlin Road at midnight, to avoid unwanted attention from Beatles fans.
The Jones family moved into the house and eventually bought it from the council. Despite the change in ownership, fans continued to visit Forthlin Road, and like Aunt Mimi at Mendips, Mrs Jones would often invite them in for a cup of tea.
However, after 30 years she’d had enough, and gave the McCartney family the chance to buy back the house in 1995. However, they declined and Mrs Jones offered it to the National Trust instead.
Visiting Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road
Both houses are open to the public, so why not follow in John and Paul's footsteps on a guided tour of the rooms where some of the nation’s favourite songs were written.
Although what emerged from them had worldwide impact, these houses were ordinary family homes and also tell an intimate story of family life which is just as important to uphold.
As a mark of respect, Mendips is shut every year on John's birthday and the anniversary of his death.
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