In 1887 William Hesketh Lever, a successful soap manufacturer, began looking for a new site for his factory as his business had outgrown its original premises on the banks of the River Mersey in Warrington. He needed land on which to build his new works and have space for future expansion. The site also needed to be near to a river for importing raw materials, and a railway line for transporting the finished products. The marshy, uninspiring ground that he discovered was eventually to be transformed into the village of Port Sunlight, which was named after his famous soap. Port Sunlight is a garden village which was founded in 1888 by Lever to house his soap factory workers.
In line with his ideas on prosperity-sharing, the building maintenance and upkeep of the village was subsidised with a portion of the profits from Lever Brothers Limited. With his own money, Lever financed the church, technical institute and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Lever took great pleasure in helping to plan this picturesque garden village and he employed nearly thirty different architects to create its unique style. The well-being of the Port Sunlight community was very important to Lever. He introduced many schemes for welfare, education and the entertainment of his workers. A cottage hospital was built in 1907 which continued until the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948. Lever also encouraged games, recreations and any organisations which promoted art, literature, science or music. Many clubs and societies flourished in the village, such as The Boys' Brigade, Port Sunlight Players (the amateur dramatics group) and many sports clubs. Port Sunlight is now a designated Conservation Area, still within its original boundaries.
Today the village and Port Sunlight Museum museum are now managed by The Port Sunlight Village Trust and although houses can be bought on the open market, the Trust remains responsible for the environment and landscape in Port Sunlight.
Port Sunlight Museum and Garden Village
23 King George's Drive
Wirral CH62 5DX
Tel: 0151 644 6466 Fax: 0151 645 8973
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