Port Sunlight is one of my favourite places. I love the tranquility of the village, the truly inspirational story behind it and the beautiful Victorian buildings and parks.
Last year the Port Sunlight Museum was refurbished. We’ve visited today and we’ve enjoyed it very much. William Lever was such an amazing man. He was a real visionary and his legacy lives even today.
This building, Lever House, is one of the Unilever’s offices. Unilever was created in 1927, a few years after W. Lever’s death, by merging Lever with a dutch company. The story of the merger looks very interesting, I have a small booklet from the Unilever offices about the history of the company.
Lever had issues with his old factory in Warrington and bankers, only a few miles away from Port Sunlight. So, he found this place in Wirral with a great strategic location. He built a factory in less than 1 year, he also built his own port and train rails to get the raw materials.
For the workers he wanted special homes, as he said in 1988, at the inaugural banquet at the “Sunlight Works”:
“…it is my hope, and my brother’s hope, some day to build houses in which our work-people will be able to live and be comfortable. Semi-detached houses, with gardens back and front, in which they will be able to know more about the science of life than they can in a back slum, and in which they will learn that there is more enjoyment in life than the mere going to and returning from work, and looking forward to Saturday night to draw their wages.”
That is exactly what he built. Lovely homes, in the great Victorian style. The workers had hot water in the house and their own privy. They could stay in the house as long as they were working at the factory. Also, there were allotments if they wanted to grow their own veggies.
The Museum is not big, but it’s lovely and the movie about the workers life is very interesting. They had so many things to do beside work. There were book clubs, dances, fancy costumes parties. The workers were happy, clean, healthy. Lever was encouraging them to put their earnings in bank deposits, to have savings.
I am not sure what I like more about Port Sunlight. The village looks great, the community feel is still there after all these years and it’s so nice just to take a stroll. The old inn is a nice pub and the Garden Centre is huge. The tea rooms at the Port Sunlight Museum is great, the chocolate cake is yummy.
Lever’s story is fascinating, born a middle class family and achieving so much, even getting the title of Baronet. I love his vision regarding branding and marketing. What he did for the workers from that period is impressive. He also was part of the Parliament and he urged the House of Commons to adopt a national old age pension and he succeeded. Lever was impressive as a business man, making an wide infrastructure for raw materials and distribution.