"Strawberry Field" (no S, but after the song
most people seem to spell it with one) was a Salvation Army orphanage
near John Lennon
's childhood home. He used to play around it in the woods
, and attend "garden parties
" there -- almost more like bazaar
s, with brass bands, crafts and food for sale, and the children putting on performances, all to raise money for the home.
The home was opened in 1936 in a building the organization bought. It was originally a girls-only home, but in the 1950s boys were also brought in. After the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever" was released, fans started showing up wanting a look around, and sometimes becoming a nuisance.
In 1973 the old building was demolished, a new one was built on the land, and playgrounds were added. A new accommodation for staff was eventually named "Lennon Court" in 1979. John Lennon had promised his son Sean Lennon that they would go to Strawberry Field together someday, and in 1984 Yoko Ono fulfulled the promise of the visit with Sean. After that, Yoko paid for the building of a new play area at the facility.
The home has become more of a temporary foster home than a permanent orphanage in the past few years. Beatles fans still come and spray-paint mementos on the outside gates, which are repainted by staff on a regular basis. In 2000 the gates were briefly stolen, but a scrap-metal dealer who unknowingly bought them turned them into the police, and they are now back where they belong.
Update April 2005: In 2005, the Salvation Army announced the closure of Strawberry Field, probably by 2007. This time the closing is not because of financial issues, but because it is considered preferable to care for children in foster homes or in small group homes than in a large orphanage. Beatles fans have started several campaigns to prevent the home from closing, and some former home residents have also spoken in favor of keeping the place open, but I cannot find any response from the Salvation Army to these petitions.