History students at the University of Chester are appealing for help in identifying plants that could have grown in John Lennon’s childhood home as part of a major research project.
The group of seven students is working on a research project to gather information which can be used in the future to recreate the authenticity of the garden at Mendips in Liverpool with the assistance of the National Trust, which looks after the property. The house is a mecca for Beatles’ fans and while the building itself is contemporary to the 1950s when John Lennon and his Aunt Mimi lived there, the garden contains modern plants.
The students are appealing to people who lived in the area around Menlove Avenue – where Mendips is situated – during this period, to help with memories about their gardens and the type of plants that were common at the time in this particular area. They hope this information will enable them to formulate a plan of a garden that could have existed in 1957. Their work will build on the findings of a group of students from Chester who volunteered to work on the Mendips project last year.
Under the direction of their course leader, Dr Donna Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, the group of student volunteers has been trawling through gardening history books to discover the type of plants that would have been popular in the 1950s, as well as through the archives and old photographs of Mendips.
The students are planning to visit Mendips to help with their studies. When the previous group started the project last year, it had a couple of useful pointers to begin with. For example, it was already known that Aunt Mimi liked growing soft fruit and John Lennon’s cousin shared his memories of the garden layout and content.
Dr Jackson said: “One of our research plans is to make a public appeal for information as we hope there will be local people with knowledge or memories about their gardens and the types of plants that were common at that time. There may even be people who remember Mimi, or exchanged plants with her.
“We hope by gathering as much background information as possible we will be able to draw up a plan of a garden that reflects what could have been grown at Mendips at the time and give a further insight into the childhood of John Lennon.”
The students are excited about taking part in the project. James Radhi said: “I wanted to get involved with the project as it feels rewarding as a student being involved in something that matters to so many people. It would be fantastic if the garden could be recreated from our research at the University and then it could be enjoyed by millions of people around the world who have a keen interest in the history of the Beatles and more specifically John Lennon.”
Charlotte Hall said: “The reason why I wanted to work on this project is because I admire the work of the National Trust does, especially its ongoing care of historical sites. This gives me the opportunity to contribute to the continuing work of the organisation”.”
Samantha Barber said: “The Mendips project was appealing for several reasons; I am going to be doing a heritage dissertation next year so this project, I thought, would help me immensely. The prospect of being able to work for the National Trust was a massive factor (not to mention being able to cite it on my C.V), and being part of an ongoing heritage project on this scale is simply the best way, for me, to add to the experiences and achievements of my education that future employers will look.”
Emma Knowles said: “I decided that I wanted to be part of this project as it is a project that I feel actually matters and is important to restore the garden as the Beatles were icons and have touched so many people in the world. It is a privilege to be working on this project as it is so important for local history and to be working alongside the National Trust is a real achievement.”
Simon Osborne, the National Trust’s Liverpool Properties’ Manager, said: “We are delighted that this group of young people from the University of Chester is taking such a keen interest in researching the garden at Mendips. It will be extremely interesting to see what kind of response the appeal for memories produces, and we look forward to the project adding another – and quite different angle to the story of Mendips alongside its musical heritage.”
Yoko Ono said: “I am thrilled to hear that John’s childhood home Mendips can be used for educational purposes and that it continues to inspire everyone who visits!”
Please send in your Liverpool garden memories
If you have any memories that you would like to share about Mendips or plants grown in the area you can help the students by contacting Dr Donna Jackson by post at the Department of History and Archaeology, University of Chester, Parkgate Road, Chester CH1 4BJ, or by email: [email protected].
‘Mendips’, the childhood home of John Lennon, was kindly given to the National Trust by Yoko Ono Lennon in 2002 and opened to the public in 2003.
20, Forthlin Road, the childhood home of Sir Paul McCartney and his brother Michael, was acquired by the National Trust with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1995 and opened to the public in 1997.
Mendips and 20, Forthlin Road are open Weds – Sun.
Access is by minibus and guided tour only.
For details and bookings go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles or call 0151 427 7231.
Blooming lovely – ex-Beatle’s “Octopus’s Garden” in Liverpool
by Natalie Evans, Click Liverpool
Work on restoring the garden at John Lennon’s Liverpool childhood home its 1950s state is starting to show results.
University history experts have teamed-up with the National Trust to replant the garden at the house named “Mendips” in Allerton.
Students Christina Asher, Richard Taylor, Thomas Davies, Matthew Jones and Rebecca Lindley are working on the project led by Chester University history lecturer Dr Donna Jackson.
Dr Jackson, a Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Chester is volunteer at Mendips, which was bought by Yoko Ono and donated to the National Trust in 2002.
The NT operate Mendips as a tourist attraction along with Paul McCartney’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road.
Mendips, a semi-detached house on Menlove Avenue, Allerton, was where Lennon moved to live with his Auntie Mimi when his mother Julia could no longer look after him.
Dr Jackson said: “It is a massive task that we have undertaken in terms of establishing just how the garden was planted in the 1950s, but the results will be worth it.
“As a Beatles’ fan, it’s a real privilege to help look after John’s and but when I was asked to lead this garden project, I was thrilled.
“The problem is that there are no surviving adults who lived there or knew the garden at the time.
“We had photographs of 20 Forthlin Road, taken by Paul’s brother Mike McCartney but there are no such visual aids for John’s childhood home.
“John’s cousin, Mike Parkes, used to play at Mendips and he has tried his best to remember the different plants and flowers that were there at the time.
“We have recenlty created a rustic trellis, planted with climbing roses, and a number of perenial pink geraniums and a goosberry bush, which Mike remembered.
“We also know that John’s aunt Mimi used to exchange cuttings with neighbours so we are also drawing on resources of people in the road to help us.”
The project team will draw-up a plan for the entire garden with the aim that the 1950s re-planting scheme should be completed by 2012.
National Trust Liverpool Property Manager, Simon Osborne, said: “This has been a very practical and useful project both for the students and for the Trust.
“It gives us valuable information that we would not otherwise have obtained. It moves forward our plans for restoring the garden to its original state.”
Students dig back in time to research John Lennon’s childhood garden.
Five History students from the University of Chester have helped the National Trust to recreate the authenticity of the garden at John Lennon’s childhood home, Mendips, in Liverpool.
Mendips is owned by the National Trust and is a mecca for Beatles’ fans. While the house itself is contemporary to the 1950s when John Lennon lived there, the garden contains modern plants.
Simon Osborne, the National Trust’s Liverpool Property Manager, said: “Mendips was given to the National Trust by Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, in 2002. We have restored the building and its contents faithfully and accurately to recreate the environment in which John grew up with his Aunt Mimi. But the garden features varieties of plant that simply were not grown in domestic gardens in the 1950s.
“We want the garden to look as close as possible to the one that John and Aunt Mimi would have used and enjoyed every day. That is where the University of Chester students came in.”
The students, in the second year of their History degree, volunteered for a six-week work placement with the National Trust so that they could research a replacement planting scheme for Mendips. Under the direction of their course leader, Dr Donna Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, they have been trawling through gardening history books to discover the type of plants that would have been popular in the 1950s, as well as through archives and old photographs of Mendips.
Dr Jackson said: “The team had a couple of useful pointers to start with. It was already known that Aunt Mimi liked growing soft fruit and John Lennon’s cousin volunteered his memories of the garden layout and content. However, the sources are limited. The difficulty of this task has been compounded by the importance of John Lennon and the Beatles to Liverpool and to cultural history.
“I’m very proud of the care, attention and hard work that the students are devoting to this project. They fully realise the significance of what they are doing and have even asked if they can continue to work on the project after the official end of their placement.”
The students are now compiling a report which will be presented to the National Trust.
Simon Osborne said: “I am really looking forward to seeing the results of the students’ work. It will be instrumental in developing our plans for the reinstatement of the garden.
“This has been a very practical and useful project both for the students and for the Trust. It gives us valuable information that we would not otherwise have obtained. It moves forward our plans for restoring the garden.
“Another group of Dr Jackson’s students is working on a similar project for the Trust at Speke Hall, this time researching the planting scheme for a Victorian kitchen garden. We recently discovered the garden’s footprint in the grounds of the Hall and want to restore it in a project that will involve local people. We think it will be of interest to those on allotment waiting lists as they will be able to grow fruit and vegetables on a 50/50 basis, keeping half for themselves and providing half for the property’s restaurant menu.”
Dr Jackson said: “We are delighted to have had this opportunity to work with the National Trust and contribute to these projects. Our students have gained valuable experience of working as historians and we have been able to strengthen the ties between the University of Chester and the community.
“We are looking forward to working alongside the National Trust again. We are already discussing the possibility of an archaeological survey at Speke Hall.”
The students are thoroughly enjoying their work on the Mendips project. Those who volunteered have a particular love of music or interest in the National Trust.
Rebecca Lindley, whose home town is Keighley, West Yorkshire, said: “I got involved in the Mendips project because it is a great opportunity to work with the National Trust, especially on something as important as the home of one of the Beatles. It’s a privilege to be able to work on John Lennon’s childhood home.”
Christina Asher from Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, said: “I’ve always been interested in the National Trust’s work and have a love of music, so to work on something from a defining moment in pop history is amazing.”
Tom Davies from West Bromwich in the West Midlands, said: “I hope my part in the research will help to further recreate a house which has so much meaning to the early days of the Beatles.”
Dr Jackson added: “The Beatles are hugely important to the history and economy of this region and I’m delighted that our students share our excitement and sense of privilege.”
The research isn’t the only connection the University has to the legendary Beatles star.
Having won a BAFTA for his work on Control in 2007, a film-bio about the life of former Joy Division front man Ian Curtis, Media Studies with Business graduate Matt Greenhalgh was chosen to write the screenplay for Nowhere Boy which had a cinematic release on Boxing Day last year. Another movie-bio, only this time it illustrated the early years of John Lennon.
Message to the students from Yoko Ono:
Dear Christina, Richard, Thomas, Matthew, Donna and Rebecca
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to members of the Family of Peace and love of beauty.
Thank you for working on the garden at Mendips.
John and I thank you.
With love, yoko