Mendips was built in 1933 on a tree-lined suburban avenue. Because the structure incorporates two homes it is called “semi-detached.” Mendips is one half of the structure and another home is in the other half. Nonetheless, it is a distinctly middle class house, similar to other houses in the neighborhood. Indeed, even the fact that it had a name rather than a number reflects its position on the social scale.
It is not a large house but it did have upmarket touches such as a bellboard for calling the servants, bay windows, Art Nouveau stained glass work in the entrance way and a large garden in back of the house.
When he was five years old, John Lennon came to live at Mendips, the home of George and Mary (known as Mimi) Smith. The marriage of Mimi's sister Julia to Fred Lennon had fallen apart and so John was to live with his aunt and uncle.
Looking back, John remembered his boyhood as a happy time. He was indulged in his passions for reading, writing, art and later music. He went to good schools where his intelligence was recognized. He had a dog. And his aunt and uncle cared for him. He even wrote a poem “A House Where There is Love”, which Mimi hung in the kitchen.
But there were a series of tragedies that clearly inflicted pain on the boy. First, there was the absence of his parents. Second, when his father did reappear, John was forced to choose between his parents. Third, his Uncle George who he was close to died in 1955. Then, after his mother had re-entered his life, she was killed crossing a street. The damage caused by these events manifested itself in youthful rebellion and later in his music.
After George's death, Mimi took in student lodgers in order to maintain Mendips as a home for John. They occupied one of the three bedrooms on the upper floor and would use the dining room as their study.
In 1956, John heard Elvis Presley's “Heartbreak Hotel” and became enthralled with rock music. His studies slipped as he devoted more and more time to his music. Although Mimi purchased one of John's early guitars for him, she told him that “the guitar is alright as a hobby but you will never make your living with it.”
Mimi also had opinions about the young people that now started coming to the house. At that time, the class system in England was quite rigid and middle class people did not socialize with the working class. While she was charmed by Paul McCartney even though he lived on a council estate, she made it evident that she did not like George Harrison, who had a heavy working class accent.
For a time, John, his first wife Cynthia and his son Julian lived at Mendips. However, by 1963, the Beatles were becoming famous and it became impossible for John to live there. Mimi continued to live there as usual, sometimes inviting fans in for tea. By 1965, however, she decided to move and John bought her house in Dorset.
John wanted to keep Mendips but Mimi insisted on selling. Thus, the house passed out of the family's hands. After John's death, Yoko decided to purchase the property remembering John's many fond comments about it and to prevent anyone from exploiting it commercially.
Our tour group entered Mendips through the back kitchen entrance. This was the entrance used by Paul and George when they came to visit John as the custom of the day was that only special top quality visitors entered via the front door.
The kitchen is a small working kitchen. The National Trust has removed the improvements made by later occupants and brought it back to its 1950s look with period appliances and products.
Next is the Morning Room, in which the family ate most of its meals. Mimi also used it to do repairs with her sewing machine.
The Dining Room was used on important occasions and as mentioned earlier, the student lodgers used it as a study.
At the front of the house, the Lounge was mostly used for important visitors. However, John would sit and write poetry and song lyrics here. It is not a large room. However, it has a solid, middle class atmosphere with built-in white-painted book shelves on either side of the fireplace.
Upstairs are the bedrooms. Of course, the highlight here is John's bedroom, a narrow room overlooking the front garden. On the walls are posters, reflectng some of John's teenage interests - - Bridgett Bardot, Elvis Presley. It is a poignant place, imagining the pain that the boy must have experienced, the dreams that were born here and the creativity that was nurtured here, and then the ultimate tragedy of his life.
We left the house through the Porch, It is an enclosed porch and John and Paul liked the acoustics so when Mimi would banish them from the house, they would work on songs in the porch. “Please Please Me” and “I Call Your Name” are known to have been written at Mendips.
Paul's home 20 Forthlin Road is next
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For more articles on the Beatles
Click here for our feature on the Beatles' Liverpool
Click here for our feature on the Beatles' London
Click here for our article on John Lennon in Bermuda
Cruise destinations - England - Liverpool - Inside The Beatles' Boyhood Homes - page two