Sunday, July 26, 2015

SWING WIDE THE GATES - Strawberry Field Part Three (of four)

The Fab Four marching to Straberry Field

The above is the creation of nine year Elmer Hjulström, Sweden - 
Inspired by the Abbey Road LP album cover

We recently hosted friends from America. They’d crossed the Atlantic before and visited the UK but this was their first visit to the Liverpool area. You’ll not be surprised to learn that at the top of their ‘to see and to do’ list was what is also the number one choice of the thousands who take, ‘The Beatles' heritage tour’ - Every hour of every day there is either a coach, a car, or individual tourists walking up and down to see Strawberry Field, the place John Lennon wrote about. And there they’ll jostle to have their picture taken with the iconic gates as their backdrop. Thousands upon thousands of Iphones snap ‘selfies’ virtually 24/7. 

In common with other rock and roll landmarks it attracts fans from all over the world, making their pilgrimages to have their picture taken at the site and scrawl an eternal messages on the graffiti littered walls. Many disembarking from 24 hour flights from Austral-Asia travel directly to Strawberry Fields instead of to their pre-booked hotel to refresh and catch up on much needed rest.

The rambling Victorian mansion John Lennon would have known as a child was replaced by a new building in the early 1970s. However, the original gates were left intact because they had become a major Liverpool tourist attraction, even though they no longer form the entrance to the site. The 8-feet-high and 10-feet-wide wrought-iron gates were of special interest to more than those seeking to ‘connect’ with the influences that formed the unique spirit of the fabled ‘four-some’.

Newswires alerted media outlets worldwide that two thieves had cut down the iconic 8 foot high wrought-iron gates as children playing in the grounds watched unaware. Two workmen dismantled, cut down and loaded the weighty tourist drawing treasure into a transit van and sped off in haste. At first, it was feared that the 100-year-old gates might have been stolen to order for a Beatles’ fan. It would certainly have brought a good return if put up for bid on the black market!

John Lennon spent many hours as a child playing in the park surrounding Strawberry Fields, and wrote the words to the Beatles hit Strawberry Fields Forever in 1967. The stolen gates were immortalised in a 1967 Beatles song and Strawberry Field. For Beatles' fans, Strawberry Fields is as evocative a name as L’pool’s Penny Lane, The Cavern or London’s Abbey Road. And the city’s major newspaper, the Echo, feared that the well-known gates were gone forever following the mid-day heist
 on May 11th, 2000.

Stolen Strawberry Fields gates recovered
Within 24 hours another news flash announced that the two gates stolen from the Liverpool children's home made famous in The Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever" had been recovered from a scrap metal yard, British police said.

They were found the day after the theft and returned to their ‘home’, near where the song's writer, John Lennon, grew up. Police said the scrap metal yard's owner innocently bought the gates on Friday. But the Liverpool man, who has not been identified, suspected they were from Strawberry Field after hearing news reports about the theft and alerted police. The price paid for the gates wasn't disclosed.

Police said that they had little to go on in their hunt for the thieves.

After they were recovered, Beatles expert Phil Cappell said: "This is great news for Beatles' fans. It is what we had been hoping for. They are part of the heritage. I think serious consideration must now be given to the security of them. Our real worry was if they had been melted down, or someone just thought they were too hot to handle and just threw them in the Mersey river. They would have been lost forever."

Liverpool Capital of Culture chairman Sir Bob Scott said last night: "I think everything to do with the Beatles needs to be treasured and thought about very carefully. "Several people need to put their heads together, including us here at Capital of Culture, about what the sensible response to the announcement should be.

"Whatever happens, the Strawberry Field image should stay on the same site, and the original gates have to be preserved for future generations. “It would be great if it could be kept for the community, for example as a Beatle-themed heritage centre, or for educational or performing arts use.” 

The ornate iron gates of a children's home which inspired John Lennon's psychedelic Beatles anthem Strawberry Fields Forever have been removed.

The Salvation Army, which owns the former home, is putting the red Victorian gates into storage (for security reasons).

It means Beatles fans who pass the Woolton site on bus tours will now be met with 10ft (3m) high replicas.

The charity (SA) said fans would still get an "authentic experience", but one tour guide said they were "aghast".

Replicas of the 100-year-old wrought iron gates have been made by metal work specialist Jim Bennett, from Aigburth, and donated to The Salvation Army.

'Musical pilgrimage'
The originals are being taken to a secret location for storage, but could eventually be auctioned off. There were no confirmations in support of this highly charged speculative remark!

The long-term future of the site, which closed in 2005, is yet to be determined but the Salvation Army hopes to develop a centre for children with learning disabilities. See part 4

"Although care has been taken to ensure the original gates to the site have remained in good condition, inevitably time has taken its toll," said Maj Ray Irving, director of social services for The Salvation Army. "This means that the original gates can be kept safe from further deterioration and with the replica gates in place, allow for an authentic experience for the many thousands of people who come on a 'musical pilgrimage' to Strawberry Field."

The site remains a popular stop on tours of the city's Beatles landmarks and Paul Beesley, chair of the Association of Liverpool Tour Guides, said he was worried about the effect of the gates' removal.

He said: "Last night I was bringing a group here and I decided to tell them they would have been the very final group who would see the gates and they were absolutely aghast."

Mr Beesley said he would like to see the gates placed in a museum, but that uncertainty over their future was not helpful.

"We don't know what's going to happen to them - that's really worrying and I know the fans are not going to be happy."


Sven Ljungholm

Penny Lane – L’pool


Anonymous said...

Most interesting Sven! I'm looking forward to hearing about the SA's plans - they're certainly taking their time. And, where are the gates?
Active SA USA


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Sven Ljungholm