Fifty years on from the UK release of The Beatles’ hit Strawberry Fields Forever, the iconic, original red gates from The Salvation Army’s children’s home have returned to Liverpool and go on public display today at the award-winning ‘The Beatles Story’ visitor attraction.
Following the legendary success of the song, written by John Lennon, the gates to the Strawberry Field site in Woolton became a point of pilgrimage for thousands of Beatles fans from around the world, until they were taken into protective storage in 2011. For the past six years, replica gates have stood at the Beaconsfield Road entrance.
Strawberry Field holds a special place in the history of The Beatles, with John’s experiences in and around the children’s home providing inspiration for the unforgettable song. He grew up with his aunt Mimi just a stone’s throw away from the site, and was said to find peace and refuge in the grounds.
The gates display forms part of the church and charity’s fundraising plans to redevelop the iconic Strawberry Field site, which closed in 2005, as local authorities changed the model of care and children were placed in foster or adoptive care. Earlier this year, The Salvation Army unveiled their inspiring new vision for the site, which will include a training and work placement hub for young people with learning disabilities and a new authentic exhibition on John Lennon’s early life around Strawberry Field, as well as a haven for spiritual reflection. The vision weaves together educational, cultural, heritage and spiritual exploration in one bold imaginative plan.
Martin King of The Beatles Story said: “We are delighted to join forces with The Salvation Army to showcase the original Strawberry Field gates to our visitors. They are a real piece of Beatles’ history, and it’s a privilege to display such a special exhibit here at The Beatles Story. We welcome over a quarter of a million visitors per year, from over 80 countries worldwide and we hope that by displaying the gates here it will help raise funds and awareness for this project to enable them to ‘open the gates’ once again”.
Major Drew McCombe, Divisional Leader for The Salvation Army, North West said: “Strawberry Field has a very special history, both for its connection to John Lennon and the song Strawberry Fields Forever, and for its history as a place for solace for Liverpool’s most vulnerable people. By joining with The Beatles Story to exhibit the iconic, original Strawberry Field gates, we hope to raise awareness of the exciting plans we have to reinvigorate the Strawberry Field site, as well as giving Beatles fans the opportunity to see a slice of Fab Four history.”
The original gates loaned by The Salvation Army to The Beatles Story, Liverpool, will join a wealth of other Fab Four memorabilia for a limited time only. Visitors that wish to support the redevelopment of the Strawberry Field site will be invited to make a donation.
About the Gates
A Liverpool man, Jim Bennett, now 60, spent five years and 130 man hours creating replicas of the iconic red gates which have stood at the entrance of The Salvation Army’s former children’s home, Strawberry Field for more than 100 years.
Jim, a Beatles fan, used to drive past the gates every day and decided to create the gates as a passion project and to help conserve the originals. Unlike the replica gates which are welded to make them stronger, the originals are held together with 500 rivets, which is one of the reasons there are a few sections missing.
Both the replicas and originals weigh about 1.5 tonnes and are 3.4m wide and 1.7m high.
About the Beatles Story
The award-winning Beatles Story is the world’s largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to the lives and times of The Beatles. Located in the Fab Four’s hometown of Liverpool on the stunning UNESCO World heritage site at the Albert Dock, the Beatles Story takes visitors on an atmospheric journey through the lives, times, culture and music of The Beatles. To purchase tickets, visit beatlesstory.com.
Liverpool, Con L3 4AD
About the Salvation Army
The Salvation Army works in 128 countries around the world, demonstrating Christian principles through practical support and friendship to people of all ages, backgrounds and needs.
In the UK and Ireland, The Salvation Army includes 50,000 members, 4,000 employees and 1,500 Salvation Army officers.
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Some photographs courtesy of The Travel Locker