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Port Sunlight looks is a chocolate-box village where the beautiful homes are blissfully surrounded by manicured lawns away from the industrial air of the Mersey docklands.

However, its residents were not those blessed by a successful lineage, nor were they the business-savvy merchants taking full advantage of the Mersey’s international connections; they all worked for the Lever Brothers’ Soap Factory. Owner, William Lever, was a philanthropist and wanted the model village to not only provide housing for his staff but also to strengthen relationships amongst the workers.

Along with housing for the staff, Port Sunlight also had a hospital, school, swimming pool and church, with the church being the pillar of the community. Lever shared the company’s profits with Port Sunlight’s inhabitants, by pumping the money back into the local community. The workers and their families were entertained in the local concert hall, with Lever footing the bill. 

In 1929, Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie and together, formed Unilever, the household brand that is known across the globe. Prior to 1980s, every resident who lived in Port Sunlight worked for Unilever, until the houses were sold privately. It is now a sought-after place to live and tourist destination.

Five Quick Facts

1 Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight was where The Beatles did their first ever interview broadcast. It was for a local radio station called Radio Clatterbridge. 2 There are 900 Grade 2 listed buildings in Port Sunlight. 3 Creators of the Blackpool Tower, architects Maxwell and Tuke, were part of a team that Lever instructed to design the homes and buildings of Port Sunlight.  4 Port Sunlight took its name from the Lever Brothers most successful brand of soap, Sunlight.  5 William Lever’s personal assets alone, excluding income, were valued at around three million pounds in 1912. 

Things To Do

Although many of the homes are now private residences, there are still a lot of things to do and see at Port Sunlight.

A visit to the Port Sunlight Museum is a must to get a real understanding of what life was like at Port Sunlight during its prime. Visitors can explore one of the workers’ cottages, which they shared with their families. With antiquated furniture from the 1920s, visiting the cottage is like taking a step back in time, getting a real feel for how the workers’ lived.

Selling Sunlight is a new exhibition in which visitors can get a glimpse into life behind the scenes at the factory, learning how Lever turned his company with humble roots into the worldwide brand it is today. A particular interesting visit for those interested in business, guests can see old marketing advertisements and visual merchandising displays inside a mock-up grocers shop.   
Lever was a keen art collector and along with the community buildings in the village, he also built the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which was opened by Princess Beatrice in 1922. The gallery is now owned by the National Museums of Liverpool and is open to the public. Visitors to the gallery can see Lord Lever’s personal art collection along with paintings, sculptures and even furniture.

The Port Sunlight Village Trust regularly plays host to a range of events, from charity races around the leafy streets to outdoor theatre shows for children.