- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

LONDON — Penny Lane, the street made famous by the Beatles song of the same name, could be wiped off the map because of its associations with the slave trade.

Councilors in Liverpool, in northwest England, are considering plans to rename all streets in the city named after people associated with the once-legal business.

But civic leaders were unaware that the proposal — due to be debated at a meeting on Wednesday — would mean losing one of the city’s most photographed streets.

Penny Lane is believed to have been named after the 18th century slave-ship owner James Penny, who made his fortune in the industry, which was abolished in Britain in 1807 and throughout its empire in 1833.

Liverpool was a major slaving port: its ships and traders dominated the trans-Atlantic trade in the second half of the 18th century, bringing some people massive personal wealth and laying the foundation for the city’s growth.

Penny himself spoke out against the abolition proposals to a parliamentary committee in 1792 and was presented with an elaborate silver table decoration for his trouble.

The councilor who put forward the plan for “all streets, squares and public places named after those who were involved in promoting or profiteering from the slave trade” has since appeared to backtrack.

“I wasn’t aware that Penny Lane was named after someone involved in the slave trade,” said Barbara Mace.

“However, I am not suggesting that all the streets in the city associated with slavery should be abolished. If that was the case, I think most of the city would be affected.

“My proposal is to rename several of the streets in the city center which are named after the more notorious slave traders and replace them with the names of people who have done something positive.”

The Beatles song “Penny Lane,” released as a double-A-sided single with “Strawberry Fields Forever” in February 1967, reached No. 2 in the British charts and the top spot in the United States.

Beatles Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up in the area and the lyrics mention a number of characters from the suburban road.