This page was created in December of 2010.
There’s a rumor that the famous zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios has been relocated since the Beatles album photo of 1969, taken by Iain Macmillan. It seems to have spread greatly on the Internet due to a 2008 April Fools’ Day prank, when on that date the Wikipedia pages for both the Abbey Road album and Abbey Road Studios were edited to make this claim. (These edits have since been removed.)
But doubt was spread further when the crossing received protected status in late 2010. At that time, Westminster City Council stated:
The details of exactly when and why the crossing was moved from its original location have been lost in the annals of time. But by comparing photographs with the Ordinance Survey Maps, we believe that the crossing might have been further north nearer 3 Abbey Road...
English Heritage stated:
It has been suggested that the crossing was slightly moved to the south east in the 1970s, closer to the junction with Grove Road. However, comparison between the cover photograph and its present location suggests that it may have been moved a little to the north...
The BBC concluded:
The original zebra crossing, where the photograph was taken, was moved several metres for traffic management reasons more than 30 years ago, and no original features remain.
While one would like to believe such seemingly reputable sources, the truth is that this is just one more unfortunate rumor attached to the Abbey Road album cover. The crosswalk is still in exactly the same place that it was in 1969. Here’s proof.
For starters, an Abbey Road Studios employee since 1974 confirmed to me by email that the crossing is in the same place it was when he started, “give or take an inch”. That leaves only a five year window. But photographic comparison removes even that possibility. The key is to compare not just the album cover, but other photos taken at the time of the shoot. You can do this in the images below.
From the top, there’s the album cover itself, two shots by Linda McCartney, and a 2010 shot of the crossing. I’ve highlighted three elements that pin the crossing’s exact location to the curb on either side, and to the pavement beneath it:
Visible at the bottom edge of the album cover, there’s an access hole for water services in the crossing’s fourth stripe. This is highlighted in red.
Visible at the left edge of the album cover, there’s a lighter pane of sidewalk which apparently has access hatches. This is highlighted in green.
Visible in Linda McCartney’s second photo, there’s a drain at the east curb, just where the curb starts to curve away. This is highlighted in blue.
All three of these elements are clearly visible in the 1969 and 2010 photos, thus proving that the crossing hasn’t moved.
cover photo, Beatles crossing west to east
McCartney photo #1, Beatles crossing west to east
McCartney photo #2, Beatles standing on east curb
2010 photo, taken just off the east curb
For further examination, you might want to check out the Google Maps view of the crossing, or the live webcam at abbeyroad.com (the webcam is to the north, facing the opposite direction from the cover photo).
Certainly the crossing has been repaved and repainted in the 40-plus years since the album photo was taken, and there have obviously been other changes (like the zigzag lines and the curb cuts to make it wheelchair-accessible). This historic landmark is essentially nothing more than “paint” that gets driven over daily by thousands of automobile tires, and it’s certainly possible that the stripes have drifted an inch or so as they were repainted over the years. But there’s no doubt that tourists to the spot (as we Fotts were in 2010, below) are walking on the same famous crosswalk that the Beatles trod in 1969.
(P.S. Paul's not dead either.)