Monday, 27 December 2010

Abbey Road crossing gets heritage protection

I originally found the message about this specific conservation project on a Dutch news site, of all places! They were less than flattering of the project, as the headline of the Dutch article 'Britten verklaren Beatles-zebrapad heilig' translates to 'British declare Beatles-crossing holy'.

Original Dutch message here:
Britten verklaren Beatles-zebrapad heilig

Two English sites which figure the same message are here...

Abbey Road crossing gets heritage protection


The Beatles' Abbey Road crossing gets UK heritage protection

"The London crosswalk pictured on the cover of the Abbey Road album by the Beatles has been designated as a site of national importance by the British government.

The heritage designation, approved Wednesday, means the crossing can only be altered with the approval of the local authorities, who must consider the historic significance of the site before approving any changes."

I can clearly spot some conservation problems here! First of all, this crossing is still in use! It’s going to wear down if people keep walking on it, and if cars keep crossing it. And if you compare the first image to the second image, you can see that it’s been quite damaged since the Beatles first crossed it (and quite altered too...).

First image - Copyright CBC 2010

Second image - Copyright New Limited 2010

Clearly this site can’t be conserved in a 'ordinary manner', by trying to prevent damage from occurring to the site through either covering it or limiting the public’s access to the site. So how are they going to conserve this site? Surely this crossing must be restored again and again if you want to keep it visible and recognizable as a crossing!

And what is the UK trying to conserve here anyway? What is the historic significance of this site? According to the Dutch article the crossing is not even in the original location anymore because it has been relocated a few meters about 30 years ago. So is it the intangible aspect? The fact that once upon a time there used to be a crossing in the vicinity of the present-day crossing where the Beatles once walked on?


  1. It seems to me that what should be conserved under this ruling is not just the zebra crossing itself but the entire view as pictured on the Beatles album: the entire context as it is visible around it, including houses which have since been replaced with modern developments and the lamp posts and cars from that era which have also been replaced with newer models, and people wearing the fashions of the day. In that sense, the heritage designation comes perhaps a little late! I think the original photograph itself has more value to us as a document or historical snapshot than trying to preserve the actual site itself in its current state, or trying to return it to a past state artificially. I agree with Iris that it is not clear what we are actually trying to protect!

    In addition, from a purely practical point of view, this is a zebra crossing which is still in use, and (as the live webcam of the area shows here: is clearly a busy intersection so for public safety the council should be able to undertake any necessary maintenance or make improvements to traffic control in this area as it sees fit.

  2. I can see your point, Naomi, however I think that for the public it is important that that event took place there. Another clear example of "restoration" of a place because of public demand is Anna Frank's hiding place in Amsterdam, which is now one of the main touristic sites in that city, even though it is not totally "original".

  3. For what it's worth, the crossing is still in exactly the same place as in 1969:


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