Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Port Sunlight

One of the finest surviving industrial garden villages in the UK is that of Port Sunlight. Founded in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever, the "soap king"  its location the result of him looking for somewhere to build a new soap works and house his employees. At that time this area on the Wirral was marshy farmland and tidal creeks but Lever saw its both as a potential source of labour and also good connections by road and rail.
Although Lever made his fortune by manufacturing soap he would have loved to be an architect so he wanted his workers village to be a pleasant place to live and be of the finest of the architecture of the time. In this pursuit he employed over a dozen different architectural practices.
One of which was his godson James Lomax-Simpson who built the houses along the long and extensive  King George's Dive here.  The timber frame house on the left of this photograph is now a holiday home.
At the end of the drive is the Art Gallery which houses Lever's huge collection of pottery, paintings and furniture. He collected so much he ran out of room in all his houses.  The gallery was built in memory of his adored wife, Elizabeth,  Lady Lever (who died in 1913) who he called his "better three-quarters".
They lie together in the churchyard of the church which was built for all denominations. The signpost outside the mausoleum is just a simple sign that says "The Founder".  When Lever was knighted he became Lord Leverhulme, which was the combination of their two surnames (Lever and Hulme).
Lever's social and romantic ideals makes the village an unique place.  The health and education of the workers at the time was far superior to those in the nearby cities. The external look of the village has been preserved since the death of Lever in 1925. Set in 130 acres of parkland there are over 900 houses and 12 public buildings now looked after by the Port Sunlight Trust.
The present home of the NatWest Bank was the Girls' Hostel (built 1896) originally built as a a hostel for the female employees travelling from Liverpool.
What I liked about the village was the variety of architecture, as can be seen at the time it was built there was much influence from of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Alas although I can show some of the housing styles I can't show the Port Sunlight Swimming Pool which was an open-air pool and, like the majority of them in the UK, it does not survive.  I am told by someone who was born, married and lives in the village it was wonderfully place to swim as it was heated by underground pipes from the Glycerine Works in the factory .

So there you have it, a village built on soap.  Lever was famous for his use of advertising and spent millions. His famous quote is as true today as it was in the 19th century "I know half my advertising isn't working, I just don't know which half"

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at P here


Gerald (SK14) said...

it is an awful long time since I was last in Port Sunlight - thanks for the reminders

Roger Owen Green said...

Always liked the design of the 2nd house.

Susan Moore said...

Wonderfully informative post - Mr Lever was an impressive individual. You have some great shots of the beautiful architecture - it looks so welcoming - would love to visit Port Sunlight.

AmitAag said...

Great photos!

Trubes said...

I lived in the suburbs of Liverpool as a child and had an Uncle who worked at Levers so we often went over to visit his family, this was when the open air swimming pool was there, We spent many idyllic weekends staying there and having lots of fun in the pool with our cousins...
When I first married, I lived in Bromborough and sang in a Ladies choir, The Bromborough Singers,
We often gave concerts in the clubhouse there.
I found out that the pool was turned into a garden centre, such a shame !
Lovely pictures of the architecture, evokes many happy memories for me ,
thank you,