Port Sunlight
In 1887 William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) was looking for a new place to locate his soap making business. He found a suitable site close to the Mersey on the Wirral peninsula.  His vision was not just for a factory but also a community where he could house workers in decent conditions and provide them with all the amenities of village life. In this he was influenced by the garden suburb movement. He called the new site Port Sunlight after his signature product - Sunlight Soap. It is a fascinating place to visit. 

Start. Port Sunlight Museum CH62 5DX

 

 

Distance: 1 ¼ miles

Time: 1 ½ hours
 

Grade: Easy

Map: OS Explorer 266 Wirral/Chester

 

 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press

Directions.

1. From the museum cross King George's Drive to the ornamental lake and turn left. This part of the village is referred to as the Diamond - a central feature of formal gardens between parallel roads with Lady Lever Art Gallery as the focal point at the north end. Turn left towards the War memorial.

 

2. To left and right terraces of cottages fronted by neat lawns line the sides of the Diamond along King George's Drive and Queen Mary's Drive. As rustic as these look you need to remember that these were purpose built to house the workers employed at lever Brothers and then compare to the densely packed terraces built for mill workers in just about every northern industrial town and city.

 

The War Memorial is unusual in that its theme is "Defence of the Realm" and its sculptures and panels depict women and children as well as fighting men. In 1914 over 700 men from Lever Brothers immediately volunteered for war service with the Cheshire Regiment. Many did not return a fact that weighed heavily on their employer. As early as 1916 he began planning for a memorial. Typically when the memorial was unveiled in 1921 Lord Leverhulme (as William Lever had then become) arranged for two employees who had served in the war to carry out the ceremony rather than some eminent personality. From the memorial cross to Queen Mary's Drive to the right of the gardens. Before continuing you may wish to view the Hillsborough Memorial Garden to be seen through a stone arch on the left (the southern end of the Diamond). Keep ahead to reach busy Bolton Road. Turn right and then cross the road into Bridge Street to the right of an extensive bowling green.

3. To the left of Bridge Street is located the Lyceum building originally a school but now used as a community hub. To the right is Bridge Cottage when William Lever and his wife lived during the early years of the site's development.

 

Turn right into Park Road. The houses this side of Bolton Road were the first to be constructed while the lay out tries to recreate the sense of an English country village.

 

It is worthwhile studying the craftsmanship evident in plasterwork, woodwork and brickwork. These houses were not built on the cheap. As you reach Greendale Road turn left. Across the street Port Sunlight Railway Station was opened in 1914 as a halt for workers coming in from Birkenhead and

 

built in a style in keeping with the village. After passing another bowling green on the right come to the Gladstone Theatre. This was the first public building to be completed and opened by William Gladstone in 1891. The Liberal statesman and three times Prime Minister was much admired by Lever.

4. As you reach Wood Street you arrive at the impressive frontage of the factory built by Lever Brothers and now part of Unilever multi-national corporation.

 

Turn left. Walk down 200yds to Bridge Street passing several noteworthy dwellings.

 

Turn left, cross Park Road and quickly arrive at the eponymous bridge.

 

It was constructed to cross the Dell - once a tidal creek but drained and landscaped to create feature to the development. Once again pass the Lyceum turn right before the bowling green and then left onto Cross Street lined with a striking row of cottages.

5. Cross Bolton Road. Turn right passing Hulme Hall originally built as a women's dining centre but later used as a concert hall. The Beatles performed here in the early part of their career.

 

Before reaching the Bridge Inn turn left onto Church Drive.

6. On the right Christ Church comes into view.

 

Lever seemed to be a man of an ecumenical outlook. Although a Congregationalist (later United Reform) in upbringing and observance he had in mind the church might develop into a multi-denominational centre of worship. The gothic design of the building seems to reflect an Anglican sensibility. At the north end of church in an open crypt lies the man himself - his effigy next to his beloved wife's.

 

For more information go to http://portsunlightvillage.com