Former orphanage immortalised by Beatles will open to public for first time

Strawberry Field, the one-time orphanage immortalised by The Beatles,  is nearer to opening its doors to the public for the first time.

The Salvation Army, which runs the former children's home, has been given the green light to create a training centre for 40 young adults with learning difficulties, a Beatles exhibition area and gift shop at the site. There will also be a garden created as a haven for spiritual exploration. 

 Now all they need is cash.

Every year, thousands of Beatles fans from across the world make the pilgrimage to the Woolton landmark featured in John Lennon’s 1967 homage to his childhood, Strawberry Fields Forever.

Liverpool city councillors have approved the work which, it is hoped will start next year.

The visitor centre would display the original gates and include information about the Salvation Army and John Lennon's links with the site. However the present gates fronting onto Beaconsfield Road will remain closed to encourage tourist photo opportunities.

A spokesman said: "We have already raised a significant amount for this project and are encouraging the public to get involved and be part of it. As well as donating, there is also the opportunity to purchase merchandise. If every Beatles fan donated just £1 to our campaign this will help make it forever Strawberry Field."

Last month a choir of young people recorded their version of the song at Abbey Road Studios, in London, where most of The Beatles’ records were produced. The song is part of a campaign by the Salvation Army to tackle unemployment and isolation among young people with special needs.

“Of one million people with learning difficulties in the UK, 93 percent are unemployed and 31 percent have no contact with family or friends,” said the  spokesman.

It is hoped the re-opening of the former children’s home, as a training hub will pave the way for some to get into the workplace.

Original Strawberry Field
The original Strawberry Field
Strawberry Field
How the new training centre for adults with learning difficulties will look, complete with a march shop and an exhibition detailing Lennon's connections with the site

Major Drew McCombe, from the Salvation Army, said: "It’s no secret that Strawberry Field was special to John Lennon, it mattered to him. Lennon grew up close to Strawberry Field, and gave generously to the home as soon as he got his first pay cheque. He also had a vision for it, expressed in the song, as a place where anybody, whatever their personal background and difficulties, could realise their dreams.

“Strawberry Field has the potential to bring that vision to life; changing the lives of young people with learning disabilities, who find it difficult to find gainful employment.”        

“We are incredibly excited to have received planning permission as we now look to make our vision a reality. The support from the local community, along with Beatles fans has been wonderful and we are very grateful.

As a child, Lennon, who lived with his Aunt Mimi in nearby Menlove Avenue, would scale the wall into the Strawberry Field grounds where he would play with the children who lived there.

Comedian Paul O’Grady, a supporter of The Salvation Army, said: “It is truly shocking to know the disadvantage that young people with learning disabilities face.

“I’m sure John Lennon would be smiling down on this project. As the song lyrics say, ‘Living is easy with eyes closed’ – hopefully this campaign will open people’s eyes so they see the many individuals living alongside us that aren’t being given the support they need to thrive and flourish.”

The Salvation Army has now launched a £2m public fundraising campaign, which, if successful, will allow all of the above to actually happen.