Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Port Sunlight

Hello all you Lovelies how are you all doing?  It has been very cold and rainy here all day which was such a disappointment as I had a day out - where has the sun gone?  I hope it is sunny for all of you though.  I had previously thought about going into Shropshire but it was absolutely pouring with rain this morning when I set off so I decided to go somewhere closer to hand. 

Some of your may have heard about a place called Port Sunlight which is a model village outside Bebington in Birkenhead.  It is a lovely village which I absolutely love and a few years ago was lucky enough to write up a research study based on the school which is still there.  I was given access to the old school magazines and records of the early 1900s and it all made such interesting reading.  The person who made Port Sunlight possible was a man called William Hesketh Lever who was born on 19 September 1851.  In 1874, he married Elizabeth Hulme and they have a number of children. In 1885, William and his brother enter the soap business by buying a small soap and cleaning product works in Warrington. Lever Brothers was born.

They partner up with William Hough Watson, a chemist from their home town. His newly invented soap uses a colonial raw product, palm oil, and glycerine rather than tallow. It’s a free-lathering soap first named ‘Honey’ and then ‘Sunlight Soap’. It was hugely successful and was on sale in 134 countries. By 1888, they’re producing 450 tonnes and five years after moving into the village of Thornton Hough, William buys the manor there and from there the village was born.

William needed larger business premises and purchased 56 acres of land in Cheshire. He builds on marshes and creates Port Sunlight. The model village was developed between 1888 and 1914 with up to 30 architects commissioned to create a complete ‘garden’ village in a very 'English' style.   In fact two of the cottages are built as exact reproductions of the farmhouse of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. At a time when people lived in overcrowded slums William was building beautiful cottages with exposed timbers and leaded windows for all his workers.   They all had their own running water and indoor bathrooms (practically unheard of then for workers).  He built schools to educate 500 children and for women and girls, special classes are offered in cooking, dressmaking and shorthand. By 1909, there are 700 cottages, a concert hall and theatre, a library, a gymnasium and an open air swimming pool. Rents are one fifth of the weekly wage.

William was kind to his workers but expected them to observe strict ethical codes and anyone breaking them could lose their jobs and their house as they were both tied together.  He also insisted in everyone taking part in the social activities of the village.  He died when he was 74 years of ago but the village lives on and has stayed true to it's heritage.  If you are around Liverpool anytime do try and visit, the train stops at Port Sunlight.

The picture below shows the villagers welcoming a Royal visit.
Girls had their own club (how cute!) - I love the building below and would have really enjoyed the dressmaking classes! 
This is the view from inside the club which is now the museum and a teashop. 

The village is quite large and I did a tour of it many years ago but need to have another one to update my knowledge of the houses.  I would love to live there as I know that it is still a very vibrant community with lots of creative stuff going on. 
All the houses have different designs and I cannot make up my mind which one I like best. 
I loved the little upstairs windows on this row of houses.  Some people had obviously lit their fires this morning and the smell of wood burning was gorgeous - it was so cold there today. 
The photograph below reminds me a little of the houses in Bath. 
Below is an old sign from the company for sunlight soap - we always had this at home - it was usually dark pink/red.  Did you remember it? 
I think my little Peeps would love this house below - very Disney Princess! 
 I particularly liked the front door, although I don't think they would have had grab rails or the alarm when it was built!
I love the fountain.
 They also have their own art gallery which was just beautiful with so many gorgeous paintings and works of art.  Today they had a Turner presentation.
I have just included a few views as there was so much to see. 
I wonder what she is working on in this painting?
Paintings everywhere, you would need a good few hours to see them all. 
 Here is the soap with two well made aprons!
 These are the original ovens which I think have been taken from the houses and put into the tea room, I can remember my Grandma having one of these when I was a child.
Well my lovely Friends that was my day out - it stayed very cold and rainy so home I came to finish my apron.  I have decided to put my lovely daughter-in-law's name on it and hope that she will like it.  She really is such a fabulous cook and baker, her cakes are just to die for I promise.   
I thought she deserved the title Masterchef because she is one to me and our family.  I hope she likes it. 
Well dear Friends I do hope you have a great day/evening tomorrow and enjoy yourselves.  I will be back soon with hopefully some more makes and ideas.  Keep safe and happy.  Big hugs to you all, Dorothy:-)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


  1. Hi Dorothy, I'm glad you managed a day out despite the weather. It was dull and wet here this morning but it faired up this afternoon. It sounds like you had a nice day out even so and your completed apron will delight your daughter in law I'm sure.
    Jackie x

  2. This was very interesting! Thank you for the tour!

  3. Thank you for the tour Dorothy, very interesting, shame the weather was not very good, but I'm sure you enjoyed it all anyway. xx

  4. How very interesting that is Dorothy - and such great pics too - I had not heard of the place or the story but do certainly remember Sunlight Soap and we always used it at home - before migrating here! You told the story fantastically well!
    I'm glad you decided to complete the apron for your DIL and she's sure to be delighted with it, especially as you went to such lengths to get it right especially just for her!
    Loads of love winging its way to you right now, Joy xoxo

  5. Such an interesting post, Dorothy, I love how you delve into history for us and bring places to life! Your apron for your daughter in law is so special, and a labour of love too, I am sure she will be thrilled with it!
    I hope you have a happy spring week!
    Helen xox