John Lennon bought his dear Aunt Mimi a bungalow here on the Sandbanks peninsula overlooking Poole Harbour in 1965 for the, at the time, princely sum of £25,000
Mary Elizabeth Smith, known as Mimi, was John Lennon's beloved aunt and parental guardian from the age of five. Mimi brought John up in her home in Liverpool and bought him his first guitar for £17.00. She told him: ‘The guitar’s all right as a hobby John, but you’ll never make a living out of it.’ John later had those words set into a plaque which hung on the wall of his aunt's home.
When Beatlemania was at its peak in the 1960s she was constantly being pestered by fans so John decided to buy his aunt a new home somewhere where she could have more privacy. Sandbanks was already an exclusive address at that time and Rumsey & Rumsey was the estate agent on the peninsula. In 1965 Mimi looked at three houses and settled on Harbour's Edge,a six-bedroomed harbour fronting semi-bungalow at 126 Panorama Road for £25,000 when the average price for a house at the time was little more than £3,500. The house was purchased here in our office and we still have the 1965 handwritten ledger with the entry:
HARBOURS EDGE, PANORAMA ROAD, £25,000 (BRIGHTON TO SMITH)
News quickly spread of of the new resident and on 9 September 1965 it was revealed with a headline announcing that ‘Beatle aunt will bring her own furniture’ and a report in which a spokesman for estate agents Rumsey & Rumsey described Mimi as ‘a very pleasant lady of quiet disposition who wanted an easily-run place with seclusion’.
Mimis house overlooking the harbour
Mimi enjoyed a peaceful and quiet life here on Sandbanks, she would visit the ferry shop to buy her newspaper, bread to feed the birds and stamps as she enthusiastically exchanged letters with a handful of Beatles fans. She loved her house with its views over to the purbecks and Brownsea Island. John had a balcony made with a white-painted wrought iron balustrade of seven hearts from which she would sit and watch the boats go by.
John visited Mimi often with Julian and his first wife Cynthia. She kept a bedroom of the house especially for him and some of his gold discs were hung on the wall. If John wasn’t larking about on the beach, or relaxing on the terrace overlooking the harbour, he enjoyed sailing trips and made the journey up the River Frome to Wareham in a small boat belonging to a neighbour.
John and Cynthia divorced in 1968 and John continued to visit Mimi on Sandbanks with Yoko Ono. Later, in a 1981 television interview, she said
‘He would just turn up and there would be a whirlwind when he arrived,’‘It was usually when the pressure got a bit much. He used to like to come here and turn cartwheels on the beach just by himself; there was nobody else there.’
After John's death in 1980 a broken hearted Mimi kept largely to herself for her remaining years at Harbour’s Edge until she passed away in 1994 at the age of 85. Her funeral was here in Poole and the floral tributes included ones from Paul, Ringo, and George.
Harbour’s Edge is long gone – sold soon after Mimi’s death and in 1994 it was demolished and the site redeveloped. The property that was built on the site has recently been renovated and renamed ‘Imagine’ It is currently on the market for £7,250.000.
Land on Sandbanks is among the most expensive in the world and the house prices reflects that. There are more properties here than in the 60’s yet even now it is still possible to imagine the peace and calm that prompted John Lennon to call it ‘the most beautiful place I know’.