No Link Between Penny Lane and Slave Trader James Penny, Announces International Slavery Museum After ‘Comprehensive Research’


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Last week, international debate was sparked by the suggestion that Penny Lane, the Liverpool landmark made famous by the classic Beatles song, was named after 18th century slave merchant James Penny — but such rumors have now, officially, been proven false.

When word circulated about the claim, it sparked concern that the Liverpool street would have to change its name, but “comprehensive research” by the International Slavery Museum has ultimately found that there are no ties between the street’s naming and Penny.

The BBC notes that Penny Lane was included in a display by the International Slave Museum in 2007, when a potential link to James Penny was “in the wider public domain.” However, that link has now been proven false.

Per a blog post written by National Museums Liverpool Executive Director of Museums & Participation Janet Dugdale, in an update posted on Friday:

Following recent conversations and the public debate, we have decided to expedite this review. After speaking with Liverpool slavery historian Laurence Westgaph, Tony Tibbles, our Emeritus Keeper of Slavery History (also former Director of Merseyside Maritime Museum) and historian and blogger Glen Huntley, we have concluded that the comprehensive research available to us now demonstrates that there is no historical evidence linking Penny Lane to James Penny. We are therefore extending our original review and setting up a participative project to renew our interactive display.

As a result, Dugdale’s post states, Penny Lane will be replaced in the museum’s display:

As part of this review, we will work with historians and meet with young people from a Liverpool school (virtually at the current time) so that they are involved in the debate and can discuss how we change our museum display. We need space to develop this project in a collaborative way so that it is meaningful for everyone involved. Following these discussions, we anticipate that our first action will be to replace the Penny Lane street sign with another.

An additional relevant note from the BBC, regarding Liverpool’s background, which helped shape speculation over Penny Lane’s origination:

Much of Liverpool’s 18th Century wealth came from the slave trade and, by the 1740s, the city was Europe’s most-used slave port.

Many of the city’s streets have names linked to slavery, including Sir Thomas Street, named after the co-owner of one of the first slave ships to sail from Liverpool, and The Goree, which shares its name with an island off Senegal that was used as a base to trade for slaves.


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