The Beatles' 'Penny Lane' Namesake Wasn't In Honor Of A Slave Merchant

By Katrina Nattress

June 22, 2020

London 2012 - UK Landmarks - The Beatles Liverpool

Beatles fans can take a large sigh of relief — it turns out the street "Penny Lane" was named after doesn't have ties to slavery.

Last week, in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests, the Penny Lane street sign in Liverpool was defaced after it was thought to be named in honor of James Penny, a notorious 17th century slave merchant who vocalized an opposition to abolition. If confirmed, the iconic road was in danger of being renamed.

Thankfully, the International Slavery Museum debunked suspicions in a recent statement.

“After speaking with Liverpool slavery historian Laurence Westgaph, Tony Tibbles, our Emeritus Keeper of Slavery History (also former Director of Merseyside Maritime Museum) and historian and blogger Glen Huntley, we have concluded that the comprehensive research available to us now demonstrates that there is no historical evidence linking Penny Lane to James Penny," the statement reads. "We are therefore extending our original review and setting up a participative project to renew our interactive display.”

Historian Ralph MacDonald recently explained to Rolling Stone that he and a group of historians "have been working on this since about 2010 together — if not slightly earlier individually. It’s been an academic debate, really. So it’s a bit of a surprise to us all, to be honest. We’re sort of taken aback. We’re not used to this larger media interest in the names of streets going back to this, you know, 17 and 1800s — it’s not the usual thing that makes the news.”

Photo: Getty. Images

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