Port Sunlight
Port Sunlight is a model village, suburb and electoral ward in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, England. It is located between Lower Bebington and New Ferry, on the Wirral Peninsula. Between 1894 and 1974 formed part of Bebington urban district within the county of Cheshire. At the 2001 Census, its population was 1,450. Port Sunlight was built by William Hesketh Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) starting in 1888 for the employees of Lever Brothers soap factory (now part of Unilever). The name is derived from Lever's most popular brand of cleaning agent, Sunlight. Port Sunlight contains 900 Grade II listed buildings, and was declared a Conservation Area in 1978. Port Sunlight has been informally suggested for World Heritage Site (WHS) status 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.

History
In 1887, Lever began looking for a new site on which he could expand his soap-making business, at that time based in Warrington. He purchased 56 acres (230,000 m 2) of unused marshy land at the site which became Port Sunlight, which was relatively flat, allowed space for expansion, and had a prime location between the River Mersey and a railway line. The garden village was founded to house his factory workers. Lever personally helped to plan the village, and employed nearly thirty different architects. Between 1899 and 1914, 800 houses with a population of 3,500 were built, together with 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. He also introduced schemes for welfare, education and the entertainment of his workers, and encouraged recreation and organisations which promoted art, literature, science or music. Lever's stated aims 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." The historical significance of Port Sunlight lies in its unprecedented 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.

Community
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 - this is why he built Lady Lever Art Gallery. Opened in 1922 by Princess Beatrice, the art gallery shows Lever's collection as well as some modern-day artwork. This collection includes a range of furniture, paintings and sculptures. Other notable buildings in the village include the Lyceum, the Gladstone Theatre (which regularly hosts local amateur dramatic productions), Hesketh Hall (which houses the local branch of the Royal British Legion) and the "Bridge Inn" public house. The village contains a church and opposite is a small primary school. Church Drive Primary School is open to people living outside the village as well as village residents. There is a war memorial by Goscombe John in the centre of the village in memory of local soldiers that died in the Great War. Port Sunlight also has a water feature which in the summer can prove a popular attraction for families. The old open air swimming pool is now a garden centre and cafe. Until the 1980s, all residents were employees of Unilever and their families. It was during this decade that the houses were first sold privately. The former village school is now a working men's club.

Transport
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.

Notable people
Port Sunlight is the birthplace of 1980s music personality Pete Burns, member of the band Dead or Alive. Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight, was the venue for drummer Ringo Starr's official debut as a member of The Beatles on 18 August 1962. 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.

Media

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Building Activity

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  • updated a digital reference
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