Port Sunlight

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Port Sunlight
Houses on Greendale Avenue, Port Sunlight.jpg
An example of Port Sunlight village architecture
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Port Sunlight
Location within Merseyside
Population1,450 (2001 Census) [1]
OS grid reference SJ338847
  London 176 mi (283 km) [2]   SE
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WIRRAL
Postcode district CH62
Dialling code 0151
ISO 3166  codeGB-WRL
Police Merseyside
Fire Merseyside
Ambulance North West
UK Parliament
List of places
53°21′11″N2°59′53″W / 53.353°N 2.998°W / 53.353; -2.998 Coordinates: 53°21′11″N2°59′53″W / 53.353°N 2.998°W / 53.353; -2.998

Port Sunlight is a model village and suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside. It is located between Lower Bebington and New Ferry, on the Wirral Peninsula. Port Sunlight was built by Lever Brothers to accommodate workers in its soap factory (now part of Unilever); work commenced in 1888. The name is derived from Lever Brothers' most popular brand of cleaning agent, Sunlight.


Port Sunlight contains 900 Grade II listed buildings, and was declared a conservation area in 1978. [3] Port Sunlight has been informally suggested for World Heritage Site (WHS) status [4] to protect it from development and to preserve the unique character for future generations; however, it is not yet on the current UK "tentative list" for future consideration as a WHS. [5] In the 2001 Census, its population was 1,450. [1]


In 1887, Lever Brothers began looking for a new site on which to expand its soap-making business, which was at that time based in Warrington. The company bought 56 acres (23 ha) of flat unused marshy land in Cheshire, south of the River Mersey. It was large enough to allow space for expansion, and had a prime location between the river and a railway line. The site became Port Sunlight, where William Lever built his works and a model village to house his employees. William Lever (who was created a baronet in December 1911, and was raised to the Peerage of the United Kingdom as The 1st Baron Leverhulme in June 1917, and was further advanced to being The 1st Viscount Leverhulme in December 1922) personally supervised planning the village, and employed nearly thirty different architects. Between 1899 and 1914, 800 houses were built to house a population of 3,500. 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.

The aims of Lord Leverhulme, as he became, 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." [6]

The historical significance of Port Sunlight lies in its combination of model industrial housing, providing materially decent conditions for working people, with the architectural and landscape values of the garden suburb, influenced by the ideas of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Each block of houses was designed by a different architect. The backs of any of the houses cannot be seen, and each house is unique. In terms of architectural features, there is half-timbering, carved woodwork and masonry, pargetting (ornamental plaster work) moulded and twisted chimneys and leaded glazed patterns. Some houses were built in Flemish style, with bricks imported from Belgium.


Port Sunlight is on the eastern side of the Wirral Peninsula, at the western side of the River Mersey. The area is approximately 10.5 km (6.5 mi) south-south-east of the Irish Sea at New Brighton and about 8 km (5 mi) east-north-east of the Dee Estuary at Gayton. The area is between 10 and 23 m (33 and 75 ft) above sea level. [7]


Lady Lever Art Gallery Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight - IMG 0915.JPG
Lady Lever Art Gallery

One of the great buildings in Port Sunlight is the Lady Lever Art Gallery. A keen art collector, Lever travelled all over the world and liked to show the villagers the art he collected. Opened in 1922 by Princess Beatrice, the art gallery shows Lever's collection and modern-day artwork. The collection includes a range of furniture, paintings, sculptures and ceramics.

Other notable buildings include the Lyceum, the Gladstone Theatre (which hosts local amateur dramatic productions), Hesketh Hall (which housed the local branch of the Royal British Legion until 2013, when it was converted into 13 flats) [8] and the "Bridge Inn" public house.

The village contains Christ Church, a United Reformed Church, and opposite is a small primary school. Church Drive Primary School is open to people living outside the village and residents. There is a war memorial by Goscombe John in the village centre in memory of soldiers that died in World War I. Port Sunlight has a water feature. The open air swimming pool is now a garden centre and cafe.

The Cottage Hospital, opened in 1907, was closed for many years but refurbished and reopened in 2008 as the Leverhulme Hotel.

Until the 1980s, all residents were employees of Unilever and their families. During this decade the houses were first sold privately. The former village school is now a working men's club.

The Port Sunlight River Park, on the banks of the River Mersey between Cammell Laird Shipyard and Bromborough Docks, [9] opened to the public in 2014. [10] The park is opposite Otterspool promenade and offers a view of Liverpool's waterfront, including the Anglican Cathedral and the Royal Albert Dock. It is an open, natural space that has been created on the former landfill site at Bromborough Docks. [11] The site has been taken over by The Land Trust, 'a charity that is committed to the long term, sustainable management of open space for community benefit'. [12] Walkways allow the public to appreciate the wildflowers and other wildlife; there is also a wetland area. [10]


The area is served by both Bebington and Port Sunlight railway stations, on the Wirral Line of the Merseyrail network. There are regular train services to Chester, Ellesmere Port and to Liverpool via Birkenhead.

Cultural references

Port Sunlight was widely celebrated. In 1912, it became the subject of a hit West End musical comedy, The Sunshine Girl , at the Gaiety Theatre, London. It starred Phyllis Dare, one of the most popular pin-ups of the Edwardian era, and was written by Paul Alfred Rubens. The show introduced the tango dance to British audiences. In 1919, Lever Brothers made a 40-minute-long sponsored film, Port Sunlight, to promote the town and factory.

The Sunlight Cottages in Glasgow are rare surviving relics from the series of Great Exhibitions held in Kelvingrove Park in 1888, 1901 and 1911. These rambling, asymmetrical cottages were constructed in 1901 as replicas of two of the Port Sunlight houses. Designed in an idealised Elizabethan half-timbered style by Exhibition architect James Miller, the houses are picturesquely sited high above the Kelvin. Donated to the city of Glasgow by Lord Leverhulme after the close of the Exhibition, the cottages have been used as park workers' housing ever since. [13] [14]

Port Sunlight was also used as a filming location for the British television series Peaky Blinders numerous times. [15]

Notable people

Hulme Hall was the venue for drummer Ringo Starr's official debut as a member of The Beatles on 18 August 1962. [16] [17] It is also the site of the band's first ever broadcast interview. The interview was with local disc jockey Monty Lister and recorded for Radio Clatterbridge on 27 October 1962. [18]

Fiona Bruce, host (2008 to present) of the long-running British television show Antiques Roadshow , grew up in Port Sunlight. In her introduction to an episode of the programme (Series 35 Episode 2) [19] set in the village, she stood in front of her childhood home and explained that her father was a managing director of a division of Unilever.


See also

Related Research Articles

Lever Brothers UK consumer staples company

Lever Brothers was a British manufacturing company founded in 1885 by two brothers: William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851–1925), and James Darcy Lever (1854–1916). They invested in and successfully promoted a new soap-making process invented by chemist William Hough Watson. Lever Brothers entered the United States market in 1895 and acquired Mac Fisheries, owner of T. Wall & Sons, in 1925. Lever Brothers was one of several British companies that took an interest in the welfare of its British employees. Its brands included "Lifebuoy", "Lux" and "Vim". Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie to form Unilever in 1929.

Bebington Town and unparished area within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England

Bebington is a town and unparished area within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. Historically part of Cheshire, it lies 5 miles (8 km) south of Liverpool, close to the River Mersey on the eastern side of the Wirral Peninsula. Nearby towns include Birkenhead and Wallasey to the north-northwest, and Heswall to the west-southwest. Bebington railway station opened in 1838 and is situated on the Wirral line of the Merseyrail network.

Lady Lever Art Gallery Art museum in Wirral, England

The Lady Lever Art Gallery is a museum founded and built by the industrialist and philanthropist William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme and opened in 1922. The Lady Lever Art Gallery is set in the garden village of Port Sunlight, on the Wirral and one of the National Museums Liverpool.

Bromborough Town in England

Bromborough is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. Within the boundaries of the historic county of Cheshire, it is situated on the Wirral Peninsula, to the south east of Bebington and to the north of Eastham.

New Ferry Urban area in Merseyside, England

New Ferry is an urban area on the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, England. It is located on the Wirral Peninsula, with the River Mersey to the east and the town of Bebington to the west. Within the boundaries of the historic county of Cheshire, the area was developed from the early nineteenth century.

Eastham, Merseyside Village in England

Eastham is a village and an electoral ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. Historically, it was part of Cheshire. It is situated on the Wirral Peninsula, to the south of Bromborough and to the east of Willaston. At the 2001 Census, it had a population of 12,250, although the total ward population for the town stood at 13,637. In 2011 the town's population was not measured separately but a review was carried out for the ward. The total population had risen to 13,882 of which 6,730 were males and 7,152 females.

Bromborough Dock

Bromborough Dock was situated on the River Mersey at Bromborough, on the Wirral Peninsula, England. Owned by the manufacturer Lever Brothers, it served the company's factory at Port Sunlight. The facility was once the largest private dock in the world.

William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme English Industrialist, Politician and Imperialist

William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme, was an English industrialist, philanthropist, and politician. Having been educated at a small private school until the age of nine, then at church schools until he was fifteen; a somewhat privileged education for that time, he started work at his father's wholesale grocery business in Bolton. Following an apprenticeship and a series of appointments in the family business, which he successfully expanded, he began manufacturing Sunlight Soap, building a substantial business empire with many well-known brands such as Lux and Lifebuoy. In 1886, together with his brother, James, he established Lever Brothers, which was one of the first companies to manufacture soap from vegetable oils, and which is now part of the British multinational Unilever. In politics, Lever briefly sat as a Liberal MP for Wirral and later, as Lord Leverhulme, in the House of Lords as a Peer. He was an advocate for expansion of the British Empire, particularly in Africa and Asia, which supplied palm oil, a key ingredient in Lever's product line. His firm had become associated with forced labour and atrocities in the Belgian Congo by 1911.

Wirral, also known as The Wirral, is a peninsula in North West England. The roughly rectangular peninsula is about 15 miles (24 km) long and 7 miles (11 km) wide and is bounded by the River Dee to the west that forms a boundary with Wales, the River Mersey to the east, and the Irish Sea to the north.

Spital, Merseyside Human settlement in England

Spital is a suburban area of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. It is located mid-way on the Wirral Peninsula, and is mostly incorporated into the town of Bebington and the most westerly point of Spital forms the most northern edge of Bromborough.

Thornton Hough Village in England

Thornton Hough is a village on the Wirral Peninsula, in Merseyside, England, of pre-Conquest origins. The village grew during the ownership of Joseph Hirst into a small model village and was later acquired by William Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, the predecessor of Unilever. Thornton Hough is roughly 10 miles (16 km) from Liverpool and 12 miles (19 km) from Chester. Administratively, it is part of the Clatterbridge Ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral and is in the parliamentary constituency of Wirral South.

Brimstage Village in England

Brimstage is a village in the centremost part of the Wirral Peninsula, Merseyside, England. It is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Heswall and 3 miles (4.8 km) south west of Bebington. Administratively, it is within the Clatterbridge Ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral and is in the parliamentary constituency of Wirral South.

Raby, Merseyside Hamlet in England

Raby is a hamlet on the Wirral Peninsula, Merseyside, England. Administratively it is located within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral as part of Clatterbridge Ward. The settlement is within the parliamentary constituency of Wirral South.

Storeton Human settlement in England

Storeton is a small village on the Wirral Peninsula, England. It is situated to the west of the town of Bebington and is made up of Great Storeton and Little Storeton, which is classified as a hamlet. At the 2001 Census the population of Storeton was recorded as 150.

Clatterbridge Hamlet in England

Clatterbridge is a hamlet on the Wirral Peninsula, in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, England. It is to the south-west of Bebington and close to the M53 motorway. Clatterbridge is also the name of a local government ward, which includes Brimstage, Raby, Raby Mere, Thornton Hough, Storeton, Spital and the western fringes of Bromborough and Eastham.

William Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme British noble

William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme, DL, was the son of William Hesketh Lever and Elizabeth Ellen, daughter of Crompton Hulme of Bolton.

Unilever Research & Development Port Sunlight Laboratory Unilever research and development facility in England

The Unilever Research & Development Port Sunlight Laboratory is the multinational consumer goods company Unilever's main research and development facility in the United Kingdom. It is located in Bebington, Merseyside.

Leverhulme Memorial

The Leverhulme Memorial stands to the west of the Lady Lever Art Gallery on the junction of Windy Bank and Queen Mary's Drive, Port Sunlight, Wirral, Merseyside, England. It commemorates the life of William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme, the businessman who created the factory and model village of Port Sunlight. The memorial was designed by James Lomax-Simpson, and the sculptor was William Reid Dick. It consists of an obelisk with a figure on the top, with a separate group of four figures beside it. The memorial was unveiled in 1930. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.

Municipal Borough of Bebington

Bebington was a local government district on the Wirral Peninsula, in Cheshire, England.

Sunlight Chambers, Dublin Various in Parliament Street, Essex Quay

Sunlight Chambers is a listed office and commercial building in Temple Bar, ​​Dublin. It was designed by architect Edward Ould in an Italianate style and was named after Lever Brothers' Sunlight detergent brand.


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