Road signs for Penny Lane in Liverpool, which was immortalized by the Beatles’ 1967 song, were recently vandalized due to claims that the street was named after 18 th century slave trader James Penny. The signs had the word Penny blacked out and the word “racist” written above them late last week, according to the BBC.
The city’s metro mayor, Steve Rotherham, told Sky News that if the claims turn out to be true, “If it is as a direct consequence of that road being called Penny Lane because of James Penny, then that needs to be investigated,” he said. “Something needs to happen and I would say that sign and that road may well be in danger of being renamed.”
However, Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum could not confirm that the street actually was named after Penny, with a spokesperson telling the BBC that “more research is needed.”
Liverpool city tour guide Jackie Spencer said she has already researched the claim and “It has nothing to do with slavery,” she told the BBC. “James Penny was a slave trader, but he had nothing to do with the Penny Lane area.”
Liverpool has been a major port city for centuries and was a hub of the slave trade in the United Kingdom. Its City Council was criticized by historian Laurence Westgaph on Monday for “not doing enough” to acknowledge the city’s links with slavery, according to the BBC.
Not surprisingly, considering their connection to Beatles history, the street signs are often defaced with graffiti. One even bears Paul McCartney’s signature.
“We are actively carrying out research on this particular question and will re-evaluate our display and change if required,” a spokeswoman added.