The oldest known Penny Lane sign has been returned to Liverpool – 47 years after it was stolen by drunken students.
Earlier this year, The Beatles Story museum was contacted by a man who admitted to being part of a group of students who stole the famous south Liverpool street sign back in 1976. The man described the group as 'worse for wear' at the time of the theft.
The man offered to post the totally pristine street sign back to Liverpool, where he said it "should now spend the rest of its days."
Penny Lane is one of The Beatles' most famous songs, with its lyrics depicting everyday scenes witnessed by Paul McCartney during his childhood in the area. The popularity of the song means that the real Penny Lane, in Mossley Hill, remains a major tourist attraction today.
The former student, who hasn’t revealed his identity, explained to The Beatles Story why he wanted to return the sign to its rightful home. It is understood the former student's epiphany came after watching Liverpool beat Manchester United 7-0 at Anfield last season.
In his message to The Beatles Story, the anonymous gentleman said: “Because I am getting on a bit now, I want to return it to the Pool, where I spent six very happy years as a student, undergrad then postgrad, including meeting my wife of 44 years. Obviously, Liverpool is where the sign should now spend the rest of its days.”
Manager of The Beatles Story, Mary Chadwick said: “After the anonymous gentleman contacted us by email, we agreed to accept the street sign on behalf of the city of Liverpool. We have agreed to work with Liverpool City Council to understand its history and possible value.
“Due to the fame of Penny Lane and its connection with The Beatles song, a number of street signs have been stolen over the years, but as far as I know 1976 is the oldest one that has been returned to the city and we are delighted to be able to include it in our collection here at The Beatles Story!”
On being informed about the sign’s return to The Beatles Story, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “Penny Lane is so much more than a simple street that inspired a song all those year ago – it’s a music time capsule immortalised by those four boys who shook the world.
"But the true meaning of the song isn’t in the street name or sign – it’s the sights and characters that Paul McCartney recalled from his time growing up here. It’s the nurse, banker, fireman and barber who all brought the street to life – they are the real treasure of Penny Lane.
“That being said, it’s great to see something which holds so much significance finally returned to its rightful home after nearly half a century. Penny Lane is in our ears and in our eyes – and this time it’s for keeps.”
Cllr Dan Barrington, Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for Transport and Connectivity, said: “The removal of street signs is a criminal offence which can lead to a prison sentence. However, given the history of this case and the fact this Penny Lane has got back to where it belongs after what looks like a long and winding journey, then I think we can all agree to just let it be.”
The Beatles Story has been working on a display for the sign which will exhibited at the Albert Dock attraction, pending agreement from the sign’s owners at Liverpool City Council.
The 1976 Penny Lane Street sign can now be seen at The Beatles Story – which is based at the Royal Albert Dock.