Thursday 10 March 2022

'I'm The Drummer!' - A born Lever-puller makes his debut

Hulme Hall
Bolton Road
Port Sunlight

Last Sunday I visited the Wirral Guitar show, held in the beautiful village of Port Sunlight on the Wirral with several friends from my Facebook page.

The beautiful self-contained garden village of Port Sunlight was built at the end of the 19th century by Lord William Hesketh Lever as a home for 3,500 workers and their families at his soap factory, Lever Brothers, which eventually became the global giant Unilever.

Lever's aims were "to socialise and Christianise business relations and get back to that close family brotherhood that existed in the good old days of hand labour." 

He claimed that Port Sunlight was an exercise in profit sharing, but rather than share profits directly, he invested them in the village. He said, "It would not do you much good if you send it down your throats in the form of bottles of whisky, bags of sweets, or fat geese at Christmas. On the other hand, if you leave the money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant – nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation.

Lever was a philanthropist with a passion for art and architecture and Port Sunlight, where his employees enjoyed the closest idealistic promise to harmonious lives, is an enduring testament to the achievements of this remarkable man. The sheer scale of his philanthropy was unprecedented. 

Lever engaged over 30 different architects during the building of Port Sunlight, named after the Lever Brothers' most popular brand of cleaning agent, Sunlight. As a result the village is an intoxicating mix of architectural styles set within 130 acres of beautifully maintained parks and tranquil gardens. The garden village had allotments and public buildings including the Lady Lever Art Gallery, a cottage hospital, schools, a concert hall, open air swimming pool, church, and a temperance hotel. Lever introduced welfare schemes and provided for the education and entertainment of his workforce, encouraging recreation and organisations which promoted art, literature, science or music.

It is the finest surviving example of early urban planning the UK.  90 years after its construction the whole of Port Sunlight was declared a conservation area in 1978 with 900 Grade II Listed buildings.

Add to this some excellent public sculpture, a fascinating museum, and one of the finest and largest war memorials in the UK.