john-lennon-youngAt the height of his fame, John Lennon would reminisce about the Liverpool pubs he loved as a young lad. Here are the four Liverpool pubs John loved:

1. The Grapes, Mathew Street

The Grapes is a compact pub in the narrow City Centre alley called Mathew Street. Today, the cobbled pathway is legendary, but once it was little more than the malodorous home of produce warehouses—a claustrophobic passage where wooden crates lined the dark, brick walls and rats scurried about furtively.

In 1960, Mathew Street boasted two Beatles landmarks: The Cavern Club and The Grapes pub. Both figured dramatically in John Lennon’s career.

To call The Grapes just “a pub” is to understate its role in Liverpool society. It’s the watering hole, the gathering place where deals are made, where the famous and infamous brush shoulders around antique oak tables. The Beatles congregated in front of the blue Delft fireplace at The Grapes every night after their Cavern performances. And they were joined by other bands just off their gigs, as well: Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Big Three, the Searchers and the Swinging Blue Jeans.

It was in The Grapes that the Beatlettes readied themselves for the evening Cavern performances. The girls would queue all afternoon in a snaking line that ran the length of Mathew. Then, as the sun set and the temperatures dropped, the girls (in hair rollers and bobby pins) would take turns “duckin’ into The Grapes” to remove their curlers and primp their hair. In the process, of course, they’d warm up a bit in front of the fireplace to face yet another lengthy wait for The Cavern doors to open.

the-beatles-cavern-liverpoolToday, The Grapes’ black lacquered door and large brass lamps still welcome visitors to Liverpool. The interior has been remodeled, sadly, but the location (diagonally opposite the new Cavern Club) is exactly the same. And often, you can still find the Beatles’ first manager, Allan Williams, there, keeping the spirit alive.

2. The White Star, Rainford Gardens

The White Star is just down the way from The Grapes on a small, connecting lane between Mathew and Button streets called Rainford Gardens. And the White Star you experience today is the exact same quaint pub that was around when the Beatles frequented the place. No remodeling has marred history here!

John adored the quieter appeal of the White Star, and Brian Epstein loved it, as well…because it boasted a back room for business meetings. In fact, Brian and Bob Wooler met in the White Star in December of 1963 to discuss Brian’s plans to showcase the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Wooler expressed his sincere doubts that the lads could succeed on the American stage, and pointed out that even Cliff Richard and the Shadows had been a failure there. But Brian dismissed these misgivings, and of course pushed the dream forward anyway.

That back room at the White Star was important for another reason: The Beatles and other NEMS groups received their pay packets there! And it’s interesting to note that because women weren’t permitted in the White Star until 1987, when Cynthia and John shared a pint, it was always in Ye Cracke or The Grapes.

3. The Philarmonic Dining Rooms, Hope Street

Without a doubt the most ornate and largest of John’s favorite hometown pubs is the Philharmonic, across the street from the Philharmonic Hall where Buddy Holly performed when he visited Liverpool. Situated in Hope Street, within walking distance of John’s school, the Liverpool College of Art, the Philharmonic pub was one of John and Stu’s chosen haunts. They would amble down after classes to sit and chat over a pint or two. Often you could find them there all afternoon.

The most outstanding feature of the Phil (as Scousers have dubbed it) is the extremely ornate “Gents.” Richly endowed with marble from floor to ceiling, the loo is incredibly lavish. If you visit, don’t miss it! (Ladies are given a free “tour”).

4. Ye Cracke, Rice Street

It’s in Ye Cracke that you could maybe sense the presence of John the most. It’s here that he used to sit with his best friends, Stu Sutcliffe and Bill Harry, and plan their future.

In Ye Cracke, Bill Harry introduced John to his soul mate, Stu. And in Ye Cracke, John and Cynthia became “an item” for the very first time, as they patched up a spat that had transpired during the Liverpool College of Art’s End of Term Bash. Sitting under the painting of Lord Nelson in the pub’s warm back room, Bill and John talked at length about the launch of Bill’s innovative Mersey Beat publication. And John told Bill about his fledgling band, the Beatles. History was made in Ye Cracke. And during John’s college years, good times were had by all.


Author: Jude Southerland Kessler,

2 Responses so far.

  1. Thanks Diana for all the interesting pub information. I’ll be traveling to Liverpool next year and hope to visit these musically historic places…

  2. diana says:

    Nice! Glad to hear that!

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