In 1888, England’s Lever Brothers began an ambitious expansion of its soap-making business, building not just a new factory but also a model village to house his employees. The village was named for Sunlight Soap — the first wrapped, branded and advertised soap — the flagship product of the company.
William Hesketh Lever personally supervised the planning of the village and hired more than 30 different architects. Eight hundred houses were built for a population of 3,500. In addition to the post office, the garden village included the Lady Lever Art Gallery, a cottage hospital, schools, a concert hall, an open air swimming pool, a church, and a temperance hotel. The result was “an intoxicating mix of architectural styles enhanced by the parkland setting giving tranquil scenes of great beauty.”
Lever’s aims were “to socialise and Christianise business relations and get back to that close family brotherhood that existed in the good old days of hand labour.” He invested in the village. He said, “It would not do you much good if you send it down your throats in the form of bottles of whisky, bags of sweets, or fat geese at Christmas. On the other hand, if you leave the money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant – nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation.”
Port Sunlight was declared a Conservation Area in 1978, and has since been suggested as a World Heritage site.