Drawing on memories from January 1967, these are recollections of how the famous four filmed two music videos – Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane – in Knole Park.
The Beatles at Knole
Filming in Knole Park in 1967
Interviews by Veronica Walker-Smith and Carol Cheeseman
The Beatles' Rolls Royce and its electric windows
Sarah nee Sackville-West, describes how she first saw the Beatles’ Rolls Royce:
“Anyway my father asked William: look, it’s all been kept really quiet, but the Beatles are coming to film in the park, so when you collect the children from school, just take them very quietly – not a word to anybody – take them up to wherever it was in the park; and if you can, introduce them to the Beatles.
William took this frightfully seriously – he didn’t have a huge sense of humour – and we got there, and of course word had got out; and it was an absolutely seething mass of hysterical girls, and in the centre of this was an enormous great Rolls Royce – which was much more interesting to me, aged 6. Anyway William said: right, take hold – we all had with our school uniform these horrible little brown purse belt things – he said: hold onto each other’s belts, I’m going first.”
Bill Hughes's repartee with John Lennon
Sarah continues her story:
“And he forged his way through this crowd of screaming fans, and got to the car, where he, in a very peremptory way, rapped on the window. John Lennon pressed the button – electric windows, imagine! And the window went down, and he said, ‘Who are you?'”
And William said, in his grandest way, ‘I want to introduce you to Lord Sackville’s children.’
And John Lennon said, ‘Lord Sackville? Never heard of him!’
William, quick as a flash, said, ‘Until you asked to borrow his park, Lord Sackville had never heard of you!’
And so John Lennon said, ‘Right, we’ll shake on that then.’ So we all piled into the car!”
17-year-old au pair Else was an avid Beatles fan
Bridget Sackville-West remembers her teenage au pair watching the filming.
“But I had a lovely au pair at the time, and she was 17 and mad about them.
And Hugh brought her up here, and she made herself agreeable to them.
Anyway, she had a really lovely day.
They then said, ‘Can we give you a lift to London?’
So clever Else said, ‘If you could just take me to the station.’ And then she was able to ring up Hugh: Please come and collect me!”
Margaret's mother's tea set
Margaret Simmons, nee Beavin, lived in the Bird House at the time and remembers an incident very clearly:
“They had put up a table and a tablecloth and they asked me – I think they’d used their own props up – if I could lend them a tea set. Well, I’d had them there for three days and I was getting a bit short of china as you can imagine… so I went to my mother’s and she proudly got me one, sort of the best one.
They set it up on the table there and sat round chatting and then suddenly one of them did the trick, which I believe some people can do, but I’ve never seen it done myself.
They got hold of the edge of the table cloth, whipped it off, obviously intending to leave the cups and saucers, which of course they didn’t: they flew in the air and are all in that pond down there. They’re probably still there… I mean, the only people who are likely to have ever found one of them are the people who go in the pond looking for golf balls, because that’s quite lucrative.”