Port Sunlight Strolling

Having been to Port Sunlight a long time ago – Son was still in a stroller – we decided to take another trip to this lovely place outside Liverpool and this time explore a little more thoroughly. Our last visit was in winter with grey skies and gloomy weather, this time we were blessed with bright sunshine, the perfect day to explore a model village.

The history is fascinating – William Lever, a businessman in the late 1880’s wanted a new location for his soap business and he chose this place on the south bank of the River Mersey facing Liverpool. Lever was a brilliant business man who cared about his employees, wanting them to have a decent place to live and opportunities to better themselves. Port Sunlight came from this idea – a self contained community for his workers with fine houses, social facilities and plenty of open and green spaces.

Revolutionary in those days it is still a special and beautiful place, now a conservation area with strict controls on development. We loved strolling around those broad tree lined roads soaking up the atmosphere.

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I found a guided trail on the internet and downloaded this before our visit. You can also buy a guided trail at the museum for a couple of pounds, either way I think it is essential to get the most of a visit to Port Sunlight. We started at Lever House, the office entrance to what was then Lever’s new factory. Very grand and ornate this place definitely makes a statement and the factory is still going today.

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Lever was not the first industrialist to build houses for his workers – Saltaire and Bourneville are two examples and are also known as “model villages.” The difference here though was Lever wanted his village to be a really beautiful place and equal the attractiveness of wealthy areas with flowers, trees and fresh air. He also planned a self contained community with shops, a hospital, schools, recreational facilities and a church.

Beautiful architecture and lovely gardens everywhere, each block of houses has an individual design. All had front and rear gardens and indoor bathrooms – exceptional luxury in those days plus houses were allocated according to the size of the worker’s family rather than their status or position at the factory.

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We crossed Dell Bridge and looked over a small wooded valley – beautiful with lots of trees, the bridge shows no expense was spared here as it is physically unnecessary and purely decorative.

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Past the village bowling green we saw Hulme Hall where Ringo Starr played for the first time with the Beatles.

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The Bridge Inn originally did not serve alcohol – Lever disapproved – but when his workers requested it be sold a vote was organised in the village. People supported the idea and Lever allowed it to go ahead. He did insist though that they also served tea, coffee and excellent soup to ensure working men didn’t just drink beer there.

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The church is beautiful, paid for by Lever himself. Much of the other building work was funded by the profits of his soap business but he paid for the church himself. It is non-denominational – Lever wanted a church for all Christian people. It is the final resting place of Lever and his wife, buried in a marble tomb with life sized bronze statues. We looked inside and chatted with two very lovely ladies, long-time residents of the village who were full of interesting information and anecdotes.

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The war memorial is impressive and a bit different – it has statues of women and children as well as soldiers.

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We sat and looked down the Causeway before going inside the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Lever was a keen collector but often displayed his collection in the dining room for workers to admire – part of his plan to encourage people to educate and better themselves. The little gallery is gorgeous, built in 1922 as a memorial to his late wife there is lots of British art including works by Turner and Constable, many porcelain items and a furniture collection. There is also an area with books, puzzles and games for children – great idea and it kept Son busy while we browsed.

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We walked past the one-time hospital and came to the very edge of the village. From here the contrast between Port Sunlight and the more recent buildings is stark. On the Port Sunlight side of the road the houses are individual with lovely gardens and landscaping. On the other side the buildings join the pavement and are not attractive with a mix of shops, houses and commercial places. In Port Sunlight they kept these things separate, the factory was on one part of the site and there was nothing industrial or commercial in the residential areas. Walking along the busy main road it hit home what a sanctuary of peace and quiet the streets of Port Sunlight were and continue to be.

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Our stroll ended at the time capsule mosiac – another peaceful spot in the heart of this beautiful and rather inspirational village.

82 thoughts on “Port Sunlight Strolling

  1. I haven’t been to Port Sunlight in years, even though it’s only about half an hour away from where I live when I’m home from university! Lovely pictures & really enjoyed reading this.

    • That’s always the way – places nearby often get overlooked for trips further afield, we are exactly the same. It’s a great place for a stroll on a sunny day, beautiful but great history too, we loved it.

      • So true – my mum used to take me there a lot when I was younger, but I just haven’t been recently – definitely a place that deserves a re-visit when I get the time!

  2. What a delightful place! Great idea with the walking route 🙂 That war memorial really does look different, but fitting, as children did suffer a lot from war (and still do in many parts of the world)..

    • It was such an interesting walk Suvi – lovely houses, streets and fascinating history. I thought the war memorial was so interesting, never seen women and children depicted but like you say, they suffer just as much.

  3. I had the opportunity to drive through Port Sunlight 2 weeks ago…I LOVED it and was sad I didn’t have time to go back and explore and learn some more. Your post was perfect, answering some of my questions I had when we passed through! Lovely photos too….a real gem of England.

  4. It looks like you had a lovely day in Port Sunlight and with great weather too. I’ve been to Bournville but never got around to Port Sunlight. It’s an interesting slice of history from a time when major employers could also concern themselves with the wellbeing of their workers and a philanthropic attitude. It feels like that’s all but disappeared again. Maybe it’s something that will cycle back.

    • We were really lucky with the weather – blue skies and sun makes everything better! I love the history of Port Sunlight too – it must have been incredible to live there and it is still a lovely place to live.

    • Absolutely! The history is so interesting and he seemed like an incredible man, apparently he got fully involved in all the social activities here too and knew all the workers.

  5. Fascinating guide to Port Sunlight Joy! I’ve never been though have heard of it. Looks like you had a wonderful day to wander round. Was interested that you mentioned Saltaire – that I know very well not only because it’s in West Yorkshire and so near my family but also because we have a family connection there. My great great grandfather was part of the consortium of 4 Bradford businessmen who bought Titus Salt out when the mill ran into difficulties in the 1890s. Alas his fortune didn’t survive the next generation or two!! I’ve wandered round the village of Saltaire on many occasions as well as visiting the mill and art gallery.Very much enjoyed the history behind Port Sunlight and your lovely photos. Hope the fine weather continues! We are bracing for a wild weekend – a big polar low front is due to hit us from the south west during the night bringing gale force winds, heavy rain and hail. We’ve battened down the hatches and hope all will be well and we don’t get any leaks or falling trees! Hope you have a lovely weekend with no rain! 🙂

    • It’s a fascinating place and very beautiful Rosemary, we really enjoyed wandering and learning about the history. I always mean to visit Saltaire, we never seem to get around to it though, we were in Yorkshire a couple of weekends ago and I mentioned it to my husband again that we must go! Someday…. How fascinating though with your family connection and what a shame the fortune didn’t survive!! Sounds like some wild weather is coming your way – stay safe. We are supposed to be getting lots of rain but not quite as dramatic as your predicted weather!!

      • Can highly recommend Saltaire – they’ve done very well to preserve the mill and there is a beautiful gallery and shop. Also lovely cafe as well. Hope it doesn’t rain for the whole weekend! Very wet here but it’s good for the garden! So far it’s not been too windy apart from overnight 😃

      • Spoke too soon about the wind Joy – it’s really got up again very wild outside indeed! Staying put indoors today! Must be a bit like some of the wild winter storms that came in this winter from the Atlantic. Hope that is all behind you now 🙂

  6. Thanks for posting this. I’ll be in Chester for a couple of nights in September and was thinking of visiting Port Sunlight. Now I’m convinced! I’m particularly interested because I grew up in Letchworth, the first Garden City, which was founded by a group of Quakers on similar principles. (It didn’t get a pub until the 1950s.)

    • I also grew up in a village founded by Quakers in Ireland – it still has no pub!! Port Sunlight is so interesting, we thoroughly enjoyed our wandering – I definitely recommend you download the trail, it is so informative and interesting as you see all the different buildings.

  7. I’m from the Wirral, so it’s nice to see a post about home! I used to love going to the Lever Art Gallery when I was younger. There are many beautiful green areas to visit on the Wirral 🙂

    • This place is really special George, we just loved the history and thinking behind it and strolling there is such a pleasure. An incredible place to live in those days, it is still highly in demand and you can see why!

  8. Thanks Joy for enlightening information. I have never heard of Port Sunlight so have learned something new today. I like to travel so may get to see it some day. Shirley

  9. That sounds like such an interesting an innovative place for the times. I think I’ve read about it before, but didn’t realise it was close enough for a day trip! Thanks for sharing.

    • If you get a nice sunny day it’s a gorgeous walk, the history is fascinating too but if you visit be sure to get a copy of the trail, it makes it all so much more interesting. The art gallery is great to visit too, quite small with interesting bits and pieces – and free!

  10. Wow! I have never heard of this before! I would love to live in one of those beautiful homes with the lush gardens. It sure is nice to hear a positive story about a factory owner. Thanks!

  11. What a great place – I’ve never been to Port Sunlight. I love the history behind it – and what a great idea to download a route. Must remember that for the future!

  12. What a lovely visit and village. I liked the bit of history about Lever too. I’ve used that soap from time to time throughout my life. Oddly enough I never thought it was founded by a Brit! Thanks for the history lesson.

    Great images and narrative as always!

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