Expanding the Traditional Cultural Narrative in House Museums: When the Beatles Became Part of the National Trust Legacy

"It was Fifty Years Ago Today," Nova University Lisbon, Portugal · June 2020 / Canceled due to COVID-19 ·

This presentation is an assessment of the field of historic houses, and the ways in which the inclusion of the Beatles childhood homes in Liverpool changed the longstanding and traditional narrative of historic house preservation in the United Kingdom. Paul McCartney’s childhood and teenage home at 20 Forthlin Road became a property of the National Trust in 1995. A Council-estate home built in the aftermath of World War II, 20 Forthlin Road was considered worthy of inclusion in the portfolio of National Trust historic sites due to the fact that McCartney and John Lennon began songwriting here. Strangely, this argument was used against the inclusion of Lennon’s childhood home owned by his Aunt Mimi, because it was thought that no dual songwriting was done here.

Yoko Ono bypassed the National Trust stance on Lennon’s childhood home, and purchased Mendips herself, paying for the mid-century restoration and then donating the house to the Trust in 2002. With Lennon long since passed, and McCartney family having long since moved away from Liverpool, this dual house making was seen somewhat of a last competition, or a last joining, of the two famous friends, bandmates, and songwriters.

Today, these two houses are unique among National Trust properties in the United Kingdom and the western hemisphere. While homes of American musicians such as Elvis Presley are historic sites open to the public, they are always privately managed, not-for-profit organizations that exist on their own, and are not, for example, owned the National Park Service or the National Trust for Historic Preservation, that country’s largest historic preservation organizations. Both the McCartney and Lennon houses are considered some of the earliest examples of the National Trust incorporating housing of the lower middle class not previously considered worth preserving.