WILLIAM HESKETH LEVER, 1st LORD LEVERHULME
A review of our January meeting
On 22nd January we should have had a talk by a Liverpool Ranger about Mrs Maybrick. Unfortunately the speaker could not come and, at very short notice, Margaret Benham regaled us with a talk on William Lever (1851-1925).
William was born in Bolton - a 7th child after 6 daughters. His father was a wholesale grocer who took his son out of school and put him in the business for one shilling a week. At first his main task was to cut chunks of sugar and stack it, but after two years he went into the office and eventually became a traveller, against his father's better judgement. He was able to marry Elizabeth Hulme, whom he had met at school.
Having decided to specialise in soap, William founded Lever Brothers in Warrington with his younger brother. Then, wanting to expand, he found suitable land in Cheshire, which became 'Port Sunlight'. His first boiling of Sunlight soap at the new factory was in 1889. As well as his factory, he built houses for his workers - together with a pub and two churches.
William Lever himself lived in Port Sunlight for a while, but then moved out to Thornton Manor. Later on he built a bungalow at Rivington. He enjoyed visiting art exhibitions and buying paintings. After the death of his wife in 1913, he built an Art Gallery at Port Sunlight in her memory - the Lady Lever Gallery. He also bought land in the Hebrides and went into commercial fishing, founding MacFisheries which had shops in all the major towns. He rebuilt Stornoway, had a castle on Harris - and took the title Viscount Leverhulme of the Western Isles.