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Take a stroll in Port Sunlight

14th February 2017

Categories: News

Port Sunlight aerial view

Wandering around the broad avenues of Port Sunlight can be almost like stepping back in time.  This wonder of Wirral, just a short train ride from Liverpool, is packed with architectural interest,  fascinating quirks, and features to be spotted on over 900 listed buildings around the village. 

In the late 19th century, businessman William Lever chose a tidal creek of the Mersey as the location for a new factory to make his popular Sunlight Soap.  His interest in architecture, combined with a belief that workers should enjoy homes in a healthy environment, led him to create one of the first garden villages alongside his soap works. 

Port Sunlight architecture

Walking around Port Sunlight takes in a delightful mix of historical styles and almost fairy tale character.  Over 30 architects were used to design the buildings, including John Douglas, known for his work on Chester’s black and white buildings, and Sir Edwin Lutyens, who later designed Westminster Cathedral and the Cenotaph. 

The Dell
Port Sunlight Dell and Lyceum

In the older part of the village is the Dell, a long landscaped hollow where open air theatre takes place in the summer.  It is spanned by the lovely Dell Bridge, a decorative version of an old packhorse bridge, always a favourite location for photographs.  If the buildings around there look familiar, it may well be because you’ve seen them feature in TV dramas like Peaky Blinders or classic films like Chariots of Fire.

The Gladstone Theatre has been popular for entertainments since the early days of Port Sunlight and continues to play host to drama and music year round.  Hulme Hall, once the venue for lively dances in the 1950s and 60s, now holds regular antique and craft fairs.  It’s also famed as being the venue where Ringo Starr played with the Beatles for the first time. 

Christ Church
Christchurch Port Sunlight

At first glance, Christ Church may look medieval with its array of gargoyles, but it was opened in 1904.  It is the last resting place of Viscount Leverhulme, who created Port Sunlight, and his wife Lady Lever.  Their ornate memorials in medieval style can be seen under a canopy outside the west of the church.  In the summer months, visitors can explore the interior of the church with its fine timbered roof.

Unsurprisingly for a village known for its flower displays, Port Sunlight has its own garden centre, with plenty to keep the green-fingered busy and gifts for all occasions.  It also houses the Sun Lounge café where historic images line the walls, telling the story of the site, which was originally the location of the village’s open air swimming pool.

Leverhulme Hotel
Leverhulme Hotel Port Sunlight

For those wanting to stay a little longer and relax in Port Sunlight, the Leverhulme Hotel in the heart of the village offers all the luxury of a stylish boutique hotel, set in a historic building, which was once the cottage hospital. To really immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the place, the Port Sunlight Village Trust have holiday cottages to rent, giving the chance to be a ‘Sunlighter’ for a while and enjoy living in a Grade II listed building with a beautiful vista to gaze at each day.

In the centre of Port Sunlight is The Diamond, a wide boulevard with houses from the Edwardian era along each side.  At one end is the war memorial, a Grade I listed building and one of the largest memorials in Britain.  Its poignant bronze statues take the theme of the Defence of the Home and show civilians alongside soldiers and sailors.  Nearby is the Hillsborough Memorial Garden, unveiled in August 1989 to remember those lost in the disaster.  At the other end of The Diamond is the spectacular ‘Sea Piece’ fountain by sculptor Charles Wheeler.

Port Sunlight War Memorial
Port Sunlight War Memorial
Sea Piece Fountain
Port Sunlight Sea Piece Fountain

Facing the fountain is the Lady Lever Art Gallery, created by the village founder to house his magnificent art collections and named in memory of his late wife.  The gallery is full of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, porcelain, sculpture and tapestry. 

Lady Lever Art Gallery
Lady Lever Art Gallery

Housed in the former Girls’ Club, just across the road from the gallery, is the multi-award winning Port Sunlight Museum, a must-see for every visitor to the village.  An array of artefacts, models and a film show tell the story of the characters and events that created Port Sunlight.  The museum also has a charming tea room and a shop with vintage inspired gifts, local crafts and, of course, Sunlight Soap, the perfect memento to take away from this unique village!

Port Sunlight Museum
Port Sunlight Museum


 

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