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Port Sunlight

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Introduction

Port Sunlight In the context of the Victorian era, in which it was conceived, the creation of Port Sunlight Village by William Hesketh Lever was unparalleled. The tumultuous changes wreaked by the Industrial Revolution still had not been fully embraced even as late as the early twentieth century. The combination of a content, healthy and efficient workforce was a vision held by some philosophers and luminaries of the time but Lever was one of the first entrepreneurs to realise such a dream. From his middle-class upbringing in Bolton, Lancashire to his ambitious trips around the world, Lever employed lessons learned to good effect in housing and employing the workforce of his soap business. Lever, like many Victorians, wanted his workers to share in his wealth which they had helped create. The squalor of the slums in which most workers lived appalled him and his guiding philosophy was that all men could improve themselves given a fair chance, in decent conditions. Tired of paying heavy port dues for his exports and rent for his factory buildings, he decided to buy a site and build his own factory, with port access and decent housing for his workers at reasonable rents. He would provide them with schools, library, institutes and public buildings which they could use to improve themselves as he had done. ...read more.

Middle

This initial 56 acres cost Lever �200 an acre and he subsequently purchased another 165 acres, 130 of the entire holding were to provide the site for Port Sunlight Village. Lever's dream of providing a healthy and pleasant environment for his workers began to materialise. At the end of 1889, not only was the factory complete, but 28 cottage dwelling designed by the same designer of the factory, William Owen of Warrington, were ready for occupation. This was followed by more cottages, larger houses, a shop and the first of the public buildings, Gladstone Hall during 1891 - 2. The style was described by a contemporary observer as 'Old English' and showed promise of demonstrating it was possible to erect a large number of industrial dwellings without their being "hideous in design and grieving in aspect." In the next eight years the number of cottages had risen to 278. Architectural styles became more varied and included Flemish and Dutch as well as two cottages which were actual reproductions of Shakespeare's cottage at Stratford-On-Avon. The streets were laid out in continental boulevard style, wide and lined with elm and chestnut trees. A school was provided for the workers' children who numbered 500 at that time. Lever's factory always used a high proportion of female labour and the village institute provided them with classes in such suitable subjects as cookery, dress-making and shorthand. ...read more.

Conclusion

The minutiae of social events were recorded with typical ebullience as an early article attributed to the British Women's Temperance Society (Port Sunlight Branch) testifies:- 'The weather was splendid, the tea provided excellent and the party returned in excellent spirits, having succeeded in extracting a more than average amount of fun and pleasure and all this without the presence of the male animal.' Following the journal's success, the first edition of Progress, a company-flavoured magazine was published in October 1899. As well as reporting local news and events it was to become William Lever's mouthpiece for presenting his ideas, such as co-partnership and much later, the six-hour day and direct bank credit arrangements for employees' wages. The Architecture The public buildings and housing are the work of more than 30 architects employed by William Lever. In less than one square mile, under his overall direction they managed to create a garden village with a sense of space and beauty hitherto only dreamed of. The vernacular idiom as interpreted by Nesfield and Shaw (they called it 'Old English') was employed throughout together with Victorian interpretations of historical styles. Building materials used ranged from the Ruabon red brick to the softer materials typical of the Arts & Crafts movement in it's Edwardian phase. Gothic windows, pargetting (ornamental plasterwork), half-timbering and leaded glazing are commonplace in architecture that integrates yet surprises. ?? ?? ?? ?? www.portsunlight.org.uk ...read more.

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