A Guide to Port Sunlight Village, The Wirral, U.K.
In 1840, Victorian benefactor, entrepreneur and ' Soap King' William Hesketh Lever ( later to become Lord Lever and then Lord Leverhulme) had a vision.
His vision was, that the employees of his soap factory could live in houses large enough to accommodate their families, their children could play in green, open spaces and they could all live in an environment that they would be proud of.
Lever's vision was realised between 1851 and 1925 when he built the 130 acre site known as Port Sunlight Village, at Lower Bebington on The Wirral Peninsula, U.K.
Named after his famous product ' Sunlight Soap', after the completion of his factory on a fifty acre site built along the west bank of the River Mersey, Lever commissioned 30 architects and landscape gardeners to build houses, recreational areas, a cottage hospital, a temperance hall, a school, a railway station and a church.
Today the village is the most complete example of early urban town planning in Great Britain and houses 900 grade II listed buildings.
The village is also home to a museum, an art gallery and the country's largest World War I memorial statue after the Cenotaph in London.
( Image courtesy of Rich Daley, wikimedia commons)
There are 800 houses built in various designs throughout the village,all of which were lived in by Lever Brothers employees right up until the 1980's, which are all now privately owned and lovingly preserved, situated in manicured parkland that is now a site of Special Historic Interest by English Heritage.
There are another 100 buildings of historic interest situated along the immaculately tended streets of the village.
( Image courtesy of Rich Daley, wikimedia commons)
The most impressive building is that of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, built in 1922 in memory of Lever's wife Elisabeth Ellen Hulme, first Lady Lever, who died in 1913.
The gallery houses an impressive array of fine arts, sculptures and furniture that represent the taste of both Lord and Lady Lever, many of which are examples from their private home at Rivington Hall, Bolton.
The building it's self is well worth a visit in it's own right, due to it's fine internal design and it's many elegant fixtures and fittings.
Situated at the very centre of the village is the Lever Brothers war memorial, the second largest of it's kind in the United Kingdom.
The impressive ediface which is flanked by several impressive sculptures and surrounded by manicured flower beds, was designed by Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John.
Built in 1888 the former girls club* now houses the Port Sunlight Museum and Edwardian tea rooms, where visitors can learn all about the working life of Lord Lever and witness how his vision became a reality as well as view old pictures of the village and it's inhabitants from it's early days.
The museum also puts on regular exhibitions of local and national interest.
The large and impressive Christ Church, was built as a memorial to Lord Lever's parents.
The church is one of the largest on the Wirral Peninsular, and is the final resting place of both Lord and Lady Lever, who lie in an impressive outdoor tomb annexed to the church.
Hulme Hall, named after Lady Lever's maiden name, was built as the original girls dining room*, but is now used as a function and conference centre, but is probably better known as the venue where Ringo Starr first performed publicly with the Beatles, in the days when the hall was a local arts venue.
What is today the Tudor Rose tea room was once the village post office.
The site of which is now the garden centre has been built on what was the village's open air swimming pool.
The Bridge Inn public house built in 1903 was originally a temperance hall.
The original school is now a Working Mens Club, although there is a second school in the village used by both village and other local children.
The former cottage hospital built solely for use by Lever Brothers employees, is now the site of a prestigious new hotel and spa.
Opened in 1891 by MP William Gladstone, what was the former boys club* is now home to the Gladstone Theatre which hosts regular theatrical productions throughout the year.
The oldest building in the village is the Railway Inn public house, which pre dates the village in age, which the puritan Lord Lever had converted into a village hall.
Other points of interest are the old soap factory building that overlooks the River Mersey, the Port Sunlight railway station, now part of the Merseyrail network, the Hillsborough Memorial Garden, and a large and impressive waterfeature situated between the lady Lever Art Gallery and the Lever Brothers war memorial.
* Due to Lord Lever's religious, puritan beliefs the boys club and boys dining room and girls club and girls dining room were built in order to seperate the young or unmarried employees at Lever Brothers.
Therefore the unmarried of both sexes ate in seperate dining halls and indulged in recreational activities at different club houses.
Lever Brothers was the name of the factory Lever owned and ran with his brother, James Darcey Lever.
The company today is known as Unilever and is the largest producer of toiletries and household cleaning products in the U.K.
Situated next to the original factory, Lever Brothers / Unilever have a vast factory, research centre and office complex that is the site of the Lever / Faberge company, part of the Unilever Group of companies, which manufactures hundreds of food, beauty and cleaning products all over the world. - www.unilever.com
( All other images courtesy of Man vyi, wikimedia commons)
PORT SUNLIGHT MUSEUM AND BOOKING OFFICE; 23, King's Drive Port Sunlight, Wirral. CH62 5DX.
TEL: ( 0151 644 6466)
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PORT SUNLIGHT AND IT'S ATTRACTIONS VISIT THESE WEBSITES.