The Beatles, Sgt Pepper and North Norfolk

Generally considered one of the greatest albums ever made, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was released by The Beatles in May 1967.

Apart from perhaps agreeing with that statement and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s 50 years ago’, you may also be wondering, ‘What’s that got to do with us here in North Norfolk a rural area in Eastern England?’ Well, blow out your joss sticks and throw off that kaftan there is a connection; and here it is…

The famous elegant, pastel-coloured, military-style suits the Fab Four are wearing on the album sleeve cover were created in 1967 by costume designer Noel Howard, who came from a one church, four house, two donkey village called Stody, a place so tiny it would be embarrassed to call itself a hamlet.

The original suits remained with the members of The Beatles and after several years some were reportedly in disrepair. Maybe because of this and to certainly celebrate this iconic design, Yoko Ono commissioned Mr Howard to make a set of replica suits in 1999 based on the original designs.

Mr Howard confirmed this later in a letter stating: ‘In November of 1999, I was found and contacted by Yoko Ono’s office to recreate an exact copy of the costumes, as I had done some 35 years earlier, for a museum in Japan. To ensure that I re-created perfect matching costumes, in color (sic), fabrics and sizes, I was flown out to New York to inspect the originals, three of which were made available to me at that time. This costume is the closest any private collector will come to owning an original.’ In addition Mr Howard was permitted to make a further set for his own use.

A set of replica suits ‘created by Noel Howard’ (presumably those mentioned above) were sold in a US auction for over $25,000 in 2016. Soon afterwards The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool put a ‘full set of authentic’ suits on display. It’s lovely to think these marvellous creations have finally become accessible to the public.

Sadly Mr Howard died in 2008 after what must have been an eventful life. Not many people create something so iconic and well-known and, in the marvellous Sgt Pepper cover, he has a lasting and appropriate memorial.

But… there is one final local reminder…, Mr Howard did finally come home and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Stody and his gravestone is still there today.

RIP Noel James Howard (1940–2008).