Liverpool Won't Rename Penny Lane, Despite Slavery Ties

Penny Lane will keep its name.

Liverpool officials said Saturday they would modify a proposal to rename streets linked to the slave trade when they realized the road made famous by the 1967 Beatles song was one of them.

The unassuming suburban avenue was named for James Penny, a wealthy 18th-century slave ship owner. Liverpool, the Beatles' northern English hometown, was once a major hub for the slave trade.

"I don't think anyone would seriously consider renaming Penny Lane," said city council member Barbara Mace, who has been pressing to get rid of names linked to slavery. "My proposal is to rename several of the streets and to replace them with the names of people who have done something positive."

Eric Lynch, 74, who gives tours focused on the history of Liverpool's involvement in the slave trade, said renaming any streets or squares would be a "disgraceful attempt to change history."

"It's like somebody in Germany deciding to bulldoze Auschwitz," Lynch said. "Like somebody deciding not to celebrate D-Day. If we don't know the past, how can we make sure we don't make the same mistakes? Are the monuments to the Irish famines going to go next?"

"You cannot and should not change history, however disagreeable it is," he said.

The 90-member council plans to talk Wednesday about a plan to rename several central Liverpool streets named for notorious slave traders.

Some want instead to honor Anthony Walker, a black teenager murdered with an ax in a July 2005 racial attack. Others suggest renaming streets for leading abolitionists.

"It's not trying to rewrite history," Mace said. "You can't. Liverpool's whole history is based on the slave trade. That's on the history books."

Liverpool was an important port of call for slave ships traveling between Africa and the Americas. During the second half of the 18th century, much of the city's economy was based on the trade.