Liverpool’s Iconic Penny Lane Could Be Facing a Name Change

Some believe the street, immortalized by the Beatles, is named after a slave trader

Penny Lane sign in Liverpool, England
Road signs and a wall on Penny Lane, made famous by the The Beatles song of the same name, were recently defaced.
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Penny Lane, the Liverpool street made famous by the Beatles, could soon be facing a name change, according to the city’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.

Last week, four road signs bearing the name “Penny Lane” were vandalized, with the word “racist” painted over one of them, because some believe the street was named after James Penny, a slave trader from the late 1700s, Rolling Stone reported.

“If it is as a direct consequence of that road being called Penny Lane because of James Penny, then that needs to be investigated,” Rotheram told Sky News on Monday. “Something needs to happen and I would say that sign and that road may well be in danger of being renamed.”

However, there’s still debate over whether or not the road is actually named for James Penny. Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum said that it wasn’t sure that the street was named for him, and tour guide Jackie Spencer told the BBC, “We’ve researched it, and it has nothing to do with slavery. James Penny was a slave trader, but he had nothing to do with the Penny Lane area.”

Still, Rotheram said he plans to look into the name’s origins and rename the street if it turns out to have been named for James Penny. “It needs to be investigated and then, if it’s found as a direct link, then action can be taken,” he said.

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