It was a long time ago as a young traveller that I noticed Port Sunlight from a train window on a journey from Southport to Chester. Even though I could only glimpse the perimeter of the village, it was enough to make me want to return to this amazing place. The journey home from North Wales (in the previous posts) was my opportunity of a lifetime as I have never visited this village before.
Following the invention of a soap manufacturing process by William Hough Watson, the Lever Brothers (William Hesketh Lever and James Darcy Lever) decided it was the business for them in 1885 and joined forces with the inventor to make the production of "Sunlight soap" a reality. After a few years in their small premises in Warrington, business took off in a big way and a larger factory was needed. A large marshy site became available to William Hesketh Lever and he named it Port Sunlight.
|The bosses office ... better not park here !!|
In order to get the best from his employees to make them healthy and happy, William Hesketh Lever who was concerned about the poor living conditions of the time and possibly through his early involvement with the Congregational church, had contacted 30 architects to design a village to house his workers from which he took rent through their wage packets. The social lives of the workers were often watched to ensure that they were reputable otherwise evictions and the loss of the job would occur.
As a result of this initial groundwork, over 900 houses in the village today are grade II listed.
The first architect to be employed on the Port Sunlight site was William Owen who designed the above row of houses completed in 1892. It is interesting to note that he worked for Mr Lever at his previous soap factory in Warrington. Owen went on to become a close friend and later a director for the company in 1897.
Certain key buildings were completed in the previous year of 1891. The successful village shop extended it's business into a Post Office within three years of opening. It continued in that capacity right up until 2005 at a time when the Government were wanting to streamline the Post Office service by closing less profitable or branches nearer a more successful one. Thankfully someone spotted a business potential ....
|New life to an old building !|
The Gladstone Theatre was opened by the British Prime Minister of the same name in 1891. The building is literally across the the road from the Bosses office and was used as a lunch time dining room for the factory workers for about 20 years. Plans of a works canteen within the factory site came to fruition in 1910 and ....
... the building was converted into a theatre with occasional films being shown. The building as you can see is still in use today.
(... and the date of the show is a reminder of how far I am behind on this blog !!!)
A dual purpose building of both school and church was built over a period of two years and completed in 1896. Later in 1902 a separate church and school were built next door to each other several streets away. The Lyceum, as it was later re-named, found a new use as a as a staff training college in 1917 and is currently the village social club... it seemed like it was headquarters of todays craft fair !!
Although I haven't done the huge village pub much photographic justice due to the large amount of parked cars outside (the double yellow lines at the front helped... but my restricted viewpoint didn't !!), the story of it's history is just as interesting. It originally opened as an alcohol free Temperance house in 1900 and a close vote judged by Mr Lever a few years later revealed that the locals wanted more from the premises than soft drinks. A license was granted in 1903.
C H Reilly, a promising architect, oversaw his work on a row of cottages being completed in 1906 and mentioned in a letter to Mr Lever that he wished that they were further from the road with a village green. Nevertheless, his work around Liverpool in the following years earned him the OBE in 1920 and he became the Director of The Liverpool School of Architecture.
|Green space ... Bowling Green|
Mr Lever believed that well spaced and good housing gave people the chance to be the best workers and something to be proud of. The flower and vegetable competitions in which entrants could display their talents are still held today during July after 115 years.
The girls club building was opened in 1913 and designed by the main architect of the village, J L Simpson. This was the building I was meant to find originally on my arrival which now houses the museum and makes plenty of noises about the past glories that I have echoed here.
|"Making noises now outside the museum"|
The centre piece of the village is a tree lined boulevard with houses running behind it. A war memorial built during and after World War I stands at one end.
The monument has a selection of figures on all sides and speak of the defence of the home looking after the women and children.
|"Will he return ?"|
At the other end of the centre piece is The Lady Lever Art Gallery which is another grand building designed by William Owen.
It was built and opened in 1922 by Mr Lever in memory of his wife who died in 1913.
Mr Lever believed that he could improve the lives of those who worked for him by providing opportunities that other contemporaries didn't have by helping them indulge in Art, Education, Industry and Charity.
This building was the final piece in Mr Lever's village Jigsaw but it is amazing to note it's location and importance in the site.
It is unfortunate that today was not a great one for learning about Art, Education ... , although I did have the place virtually to myself and ... helped with my art !! In the next post I'll try to discover where all the people are !!
|House for sale !!|
|One that was overlooked !!!|