Liverpool’s Strawberry Field Salvation Army children’s home gave notice of closure yesterday. The site, near John Lennon’s childhood home, inspired Lennon to write the Beatles’ psychedelic 1967 song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” recently ranked Number Seventy-Six in Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Released as a single with “Penny Lane” as the B side, “Strawberry Fields Forever” went to Number Two on the U.K. charts and Number Eight in the U.S.
The Victorian building on Beaconsfield Road currently houses only three children, with most now being placed with foster families. The home is expected to close within the next two years.
As a young boy, Lennon often played with friends on the grounds, near his home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. Lennon’s aunt Mimi, who raised him after his father left and his mother moved in with another man, would take the boy to Strawberry Field to hear the Salvation Army band play during their summer celebration. Lennon wrote the nostalgic song on acoustic guitar while in Spain filming the satire How I Won the War. (British star Michael Crawford, his co-star, was the first to hear the tune.) He considered it one of his greatest achievements with the Beatles.
“Because of hang-ups and many other things, I would only now and then specifically write about me,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970. “The only true songs I ever wrote were ‘Help!’ and ‘Strawberry Fields.’ They were the ones that I really wrote from experience and not projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it, which I always found phony.”
In 1979, Lennon donated money for the children’s home to build a new wing, dubbed Lennon Court. And after Lennon was fatally shot in front of his New York City apartment the next year, the city — with the help of Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono — dedicated a nearby area in Central Park to his memory, naming it “Strawberry Fields.”
The fate of the Strawberry Field building has not been determined. Its century-old, wrought iron gates have become a site of pilgrimage for Beatles fans, with visitors writing messages on the perimeter walls.