The story of St Margarets and the Beatles can be told in three movies with St Margarets at their heart. Filmed at Twickenham Studios, a minute’s walk from 20 The Barons, they also featured location shoots that stamped the area with the Fab Four’s historic boot-prints.
In March 1964, the fresh-faced, mop-topped Beatles returned from a triumphant US tour, with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ topping the charts, to film A Hard Day’s Night in Twickenham Studios. With Beatlemania in full, screaming frenzy, fans stormed the gates, broke into the studios and hid out in workshops. On 10 March, Ringo filmed at The Turk’s Head pub, one of our best local pubs which you can visit on the corner of Winchester Road and St Margarets Grove. In the scene, he buys a limp sandwich, spills his change on a game of shove ha’penny, breaks a glass and throws some darts that nearly skewer the pub parrot before being ejected. For the ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ section, all four Beatles ran around Thornbury Playing Fields in nearby Isleworth. A Hard Day’s Night is a fictionalized portrayal of a day in the life (two, in fact) of a Beatle, and captures their youthful exuberance and sardonic humour, as well as satirising the constricting noose of fame. Filmed by Richard Lester in black and white with handheld cameras and machine-gun editing, it was a pioneering movie and remains one of the great music films.
Four very different young men had a ticket to ride back to Twickenham a year later. So tired from their tour schedule, and often stoned, they said that making Help! with Richard Lester was like being extras in their own film. On 14 April 1965, they completed filming at Ailsa Avenue, west of St Margaret’s Road. The Beatles arrive in a black Rolls-Royce and enter four terraced houses, numbers 5, 7, 9 and 11, through separate blue, red, white and green front doors. In the movie, these converge on a single interior, a fictional Beatles mansion that was in fact a set at Twickenham Studios, where a grass carpet is cut by a gardener using toy false teeth and Paul plays a Wurlitzer organ. Fans gathered at The Barons once more to witness such seminal Sixties scenes as Paul arriving in his Mini with girlfriend Jane Asher. The Goon-inspired plot, in which a religious cult pursues Ringo in a madcap chase, offered the Beatles greater acting opportunities, while the kaleidoscopic imagery set the template for the Monkees’ television shows and led to Lester being dubbed the father of the pop video.
The long and winding road wound back to Twickenham Studios on 2 January 1969, when internal tensions were pulling the band apart. The Beatles had dominated the second half of the decade, leaving Sergeant Pepper, the Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album in their considerable wake. But the filming at Twickenham of intensive rehearsal sessions for a proposed one-hour television special pointed an unhelpful lens at the band’s internal discord. George walked out and eventually called a halt to the rehearsals, later referring to the “winter of discontent in Twickenham”. In April 1970 the band broke up, but locals still remember the Beatles at The Barons as if it were yesterday, and Let It Be (1970) presents the best of the sessions and a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Beatles at Twickenham Film Studios.