The Garden at Strawberry Field






rankinfraser landscape architecture


The Salvation Army


At Strawberry Field in Liverpool was a Victorian House, operated by The Salvation Army since 1936 as a home for some of Liverpool’s most vulnerable children. It was in these grounds which a young John Lennon played as a child, eventually immortalising the place in the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Julia Baird, Lennon’s sister said, “as children we all have somewhere that’s a bit ours, a bit seems that this was John’s special place’. For this reason hundreds of thousands of tourists would visit the derelict grounds annually to see the iconic red gates and pay homage to Lennon.

In 2012 The Salvation Army began a project to create a new facility on the site which reopened the garden to the public with a new visitor centre, designed by Hoskins Architects, also functioning as a training centre to assist young people overcoming difficulties in obtaining employment. This continues The Salvation Army’s charitable work on these grounds. 

Central to the client’s brief was the transformation of the grounds into a garden, serving as an extension of the internal exhibition, an external productive space for the young people of the training centre, as well as a peaceful woodland space for public use. 

The design challenge was how to create a new multi functional and accessible public garden whilst retaining the magic that one imagines the young Lennon experienced, along with the mystery that the garden had held for so long. With the centre now open to visitors this has been achieved. The Guardian writer Gavin McOwan wrote “...the real joy was sitting in the peaceful garden, imagining which of the trees my hero would have climbed...” The existing wooded character of the site is retained through the protection of existing trees through which new pathways snake, negotiating the site’s topography. The historic Victorian houses' lawn has been reinstated providing an open space for events or informal gatherings. Site won  stone from the original house have been repurposed as steps, a water rill and benches through the garden.  A series of features are incorporated within the garden including the original red gates, and two woodland shelters, also designed by rankinfraser create spaces for contemplation.  The centre nestles within the site - a pavilion in the garden.  The landscape mediates between the the new buildings on a detailed scale and the garden via the brick plinth on which the building sits.