20 Forthlin Road is part of the Mather Avenue housing estate constructed by the Liverpool Council between 1949 and 1952. Such estates were built in order to provide working class families with alternative housing to the inner city tenements. The destruction of much of central Liverpool during the Blitz added urgency for such housing.
The McCartneys moved to 20 Forthlin Road in 1955. Jim McCartney, who worked at the Liverpool Corn Exchange, had married Mary Mohin, a nurse, in 1941. They had two boys, James Paul and Michael. Immediately before moving to Forthlin Road, they had lived in another council estate in Speke. However, Mary wanted to be closer to the city center and the Mather Avenue estate was nicer than the one in Speke.
Tragically, Mary became ill with cancer and died in 1956. As a result, the house was just occupied by Jim and the two boys for most of the time the McCartney family lived there.
Number 20 is a two-story structure roughly in the middle of a line of attached houses. In order to ensure that they were not building the slum of the future, the Council made very exacting specifications such as insisting on ebony doorknobs and brass fittings. Number 20 also had an indoor toilet as well as an outdoor WC.
After the Beatles became famous in 1963, Paul bought a new house for his father and so other tenants moved into 20 Forthlin Road. Over time, the new tenants made improvements and made various changes to the décor. However, the National Trust has endeavored to return the house to the condition it was in when the McCartneys resided there. For example, to restore the windows, the Trust swapped the double glazing that had been installed at Number 20 for the original sash windows from one of the neighboring houses.
In front of Number 20 is a small neat garden. Jim McCartney was a keen gardener and so this is the way the house would have looked in his day.
The entrance to Number 20 is on the right-hand side of the house. After entering, the living room is on the left. This is one of the most significant rooms in the house. Because Jim worked during the day, the house was unoccupied during the day. Paul and John would “sag off” from school and spend the day writing songs in Paul's living room.
Different patterns of wallpaper are on each wall - - an idea attributed to Paul and Mike. The room is furnished with 1950s era furniture including a television (the McCartney's bought a television in order to watch the coronation in 1952). There is also an upright piano. Jim was an amateur musician and Paul would enjoy listening to him play as a boy.
Also on the walls are black and white photographs taken by Mike McCartney showing the family and the other Beatles in the house. Naturally, these were not part of the decoration back in the day. However, they provide a connection between the room that you are viewing and what occurred there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They also show how successful the Trust has been in restoring the house.
Going through a set of double doors, you come to the dining room. Off to the right is the kitchen. As with the living room, these have been furnished with 1950s period items similar to the ones that would have been there when the McCartneys were there.
The kitchen then connects with the entrance hall. Thus, the downstairs rooms form a circuit, which the young boys would race around.
Upstairs are three bedrooms. There is also a bathroom and separate toilet. The latter has good acoustics and was used to work out a number of Paul's early compositions. “Everything sounds better in the bog,” he has commented.
The back bedroom looks out over another neat garden and then onto a police training facility. Paul and Mike would watch the mounted police training there.
Extending up from the garden is a drainpipe that goes past the upstairs bathroom. When Paul was out late and did not want to disturb his father, he would climb the pipe and come in through the bathroom window.
The National Trust tour of the Beatles' boyhood homes is the next best thing to a time portal. It provides a unique perspective not only on famous people but also the shaping of our times.
For more information on these tours, see the National Trust's website.
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