Port Sunlight, Merseyside, England
Record Id: 5051
The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):
The principal public open spaces of The Dell, The Diamond, and The Causeway within a garden village laid out in the late C19 and early C20 largely to the overall plans of William Hesketh Lever, with formal open spaces based on a 1910 competition design by Ernest Prestwich.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Port Sunlight Village, an area of c 53ha, lies c 5km south-south-east of Birkenhead. The c 1ha area of The Dell (part of the area here registered) occupies a partly in-filled former tidal channel running from north-east to south-west in the south of the village. The irregular site is bounded to the south-east and north-east by Park Road and to the north-north-west adjoins the Lyceum and Bath Road. These boundaries are generally unmarked, with the south-east boundary with Park Road partly marked by a low hedge.
The c 1.9ha area of The Diamond and The Causeway (part of the area here registered) occupies level ground in the west of the village. The Diamond is bounded to the east by King George's Drive, to the north by Windy Bank, and to the west by Queen Mary's Drive. The two formal, axial landscaped areas of The Diamond intersect with the formal layout of The Causeway. The latter is bounded to the north and south by two roads named The Causeway, to the east by Church Drive, and to the west by Greendale Road. Boundaries are generally unmarked with a stone balustrade to the raised rose garden at the southern end of The Diamond.
Both The Dell and the intersecting Diamond and Causeway sites are generally surrounded by two-storey housing set within individual but open-plan gardens, forming part of the garden village. Port Sunlight Village, with the factory complex immediately to the south-east, encompasses a number of other landscaped open spaces, including three bowling greens, but these are generally laid to grass with trees (all of these other areas outside the areas here registered).
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Access to the lower level of The Dell is via winding stone steps leading down from the adjoining roads with two pairs of steps sited on either side of a sandstone bridge (listed grade II) which leads across the centre of The Dell and links the two sections of Bridge Street to the north-west and south-east. The bridge dates from 1894 and was designed by Douglas and Fordham.
The northern approach to The Diamond is from Windy Bank, which widens to form an informal forecourt between the Lady Lever Art Gallery and the north end of The Diamond. From the south a short road leading north-west from Bolton Road forms a short axial route terminating at a stone archway flanked by stone balustrades (the whole listed grade II with the rose garden) leading into the rose garden at the southern end of The Diamond. Access into The Causeway is from the axial roads of Church Drive to the east and Greendale Road to the west.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery (listed grade II), bounded by railings, is situated at the northern end, and on the main axis of the formal open space of The Diamond to which it provides a focal point and closing feature. It was built in 1913-22 and designed in a restrained Beaux Arts classical style by William and Segar Owen with Portland stone cladding and four entrances, one to each side, each with recessed porticoes of fluted Ionic columns. The gallery was conceived and built by Lever as a memorial to his wife who died in 1913 and is an addition to the 1910 Prestwich scheme.
Christ Church (listed grade II*) is situated on Church Drive within a semicircular burial ground, enclosed by railings, which extends eastwards to King Edward's Drive. The red sandstone church in late Perpendicular Gothic style was built in 1902-4 to a design by William and Segar Owen and provides a focal point and closing feature at the eastern end of the cross-axial Causeway. The burial ground is centred on the cross-axis, as proposed in the 1910 Prestwich scheme, with the church sited askew at the centre, this siting apparently determined by alignment to a tidal channel (Plan, 1902). Formal landscaping proposed by Prestwich within the burial ground does not appear to have been implemented (OS 1936).
The Lyceum (listed grade II) is situated on Bridge Street at the centre, and to the north-west of, The Dell in the south-west of the village from where the tall gables and octagonal clock tower with a short spire form a dominant feature. The brick building with stone detailing dates from 1894-6 and was designed by Douglas and Fordham.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
Port Sunlight Village is characterised by wide roads flanked by broad pavements and open-plan lawned front gardens to blocks of generally two-storey houses, interspersed with low-rise public buildings and open spaces. Some short lengths of late C19/early C20 railings remain to front gardens. The village is enlivened by the wide variety of building design, generally in vernacular style, and detailing ranging from restrained brickwork to exuberant half timbering and pargetting. Pavements, with stone and concrete paving, generally have an outer margin strip with tree planting. The margin strip with stone kerb is generally asphalted, but is planted with low hedging on sections of Windy Bank and roads adjoining The Diamond. A number of road junctions are marked by late C19/early C20 detailing with bands of stone setts and paving.
In the south-west area of the village the main open space is The Dell, an informal sunken public park with a winding central path leading from south-west to north-east for c 290m. At the centre The Dell is crossed by a sandstone pedestrian bridge from where there are views down into the landscaped areas to the north-east and south-west. The bridge links and is axial with two sections of Bridge Street to the north-west and south-east and is aligned on and gives direct access to the former main factory entrance to the south-east. Immediately to the north of the bridge The Dell is overlooked by the Lyceum. Roads bounding The Dell are situated at the head of the grassed slopes of the sunken area with views down grassed slopes between shrub beds and mature trees. To the south-west of the bridge the slopes are partially lined with rockwork and to the north of the bridge with low stone retaining walls which at the north-east end enclose a wider level area. The Dell was formed from a drained tidal channel as the principal open space of the earliest part of the village completed in 1889?97. The plan of 1902 and 1936 OS map show The Dell laid out with circuit paths and the northern area occupied by a large Auditorium building. Some evidence of the circuit path remains (2002) in the form of level grassed areas on either side of the central path. The Auditorium, built in 1902?6, was demolished in 1937. It is understood that the rockwork was constructed during the Second World War by Italian prisoners of war (Kelly 2001).
The Diamond, c 40m wide and c 350m long, forms a formal, approximately north/south axis parallel to Greendale Road on the western boundary of the village. Some 120m from its southern end the cross-axial Causeway is laid out symmetrically to east and west. The junction of The Diamond and The Causeway is marked by a war memorial (listed grade II), designed by Sir W Goscombe John and erected 1916?21. The large circular granite structure surmounted by bronze sculptures below a Celtic cross forms a central focal point in the formal design. The Diamond is bounded by King George's Drive to the east and Queen Mary's Drive to the west, generally with housing, all dating from 1911 to 1913 and by J Lomax-Simpson, facing on both sides. The ground in both north and south sections of The Diamond falls slightly towards a central level area. Each of these areas is laid out with a central stone-edged linear bed planted with roses flanked by narrow strips of lawn and paved paths beyond which gently sloping lawns are lined with a double row of trees at the outer edges. At the centre of the northern section this layout is replaced by a paved area, with stone steps leading down from the flanking roads, laid out with a formal arrangement of small island beds. This is the site of a former bandstand demolished in the 1930s. Early C20 illustrations (Hubbard and Shippobottom 1988) show the two areas of The Diamond enclosed by railings, outside two outer lines of trees, and with the whole area laid to grass. At the northern end The Diamond terminates, c 35m south of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, at a bronze fountain set within a low stone-walled pond (pond and fountain listed grade II) with an ornate curved and swept plan. The pond dates from c 1913 and the fountain, by Sir Charles Wheeler, from 1946. The southern end of The Diamond terminates in a raised rose garden with stone terrace and walls with an ornamental arch to the south and lion-mask fountain above a shallow semicircular basin to the north (the whole listed grade II). From the raised garden there are long views north along The Diamond to the war memorial and the art gallery beyond. This feature dates from c 1936 and was designed by J Lomax-Simpson. Both this and the northern pond are additions to the 1910 Prestwich scheme.
The Causeway comprises two roads extending from Greendale Road to the west to Church Drive to the east, which flank two open spaces to west and east of the war memorial. Each of these rectangular areas with curved ends is laid to lawn and planted with two double lines of trees within an outer pavement. The 1910 Prestwich scheme and mid C20 photographs (Unilever 1953) show these areas as open, allowing clear views to the church, with a single line of trees within the pavement.
T H Mawson, Civic Art (1911), pp 279-87
Unilever, The Story of Port Sunlight (1953), pp 66-95
N Pevsner and E Hubbard, The Buildings of England: Cheshire (1971), pp 303-13
Country Life, 160 (16 December 1976), pp 1822-4
E Hubbard and M Shippobottom, A Guide to Port Sunlight Village (1988)
P De Figueiredo and J Treuherz, Cheshire Country Houses (1988), p 176
C Gallager, English Heritage Register Review Stage 1: Merseyside (1994)
Port Sunlight Fact Sheets, (Port Sunlight Village Trust 1999)
J Kelly, Outline History of the Landscape of Port Sunlight Village, (unpublished report for Port Sunlight Village Trust 2001)
Port Sunlight Village Trail, guide leaflet, (Port Sunlight Village Trust nd)
Port Sunlight History atwww.portsunlight.org.uk/history (2001)
Plan of the Village of Port Sunlight, 1889 (Unilever Archive, Port Sunlight) [reproduced in Hubbard and Shippobottom 1988]
Plan of the Village of Port Sunlight, 1902 (Unilever Archive, Port Sunlight) [reproduced in Hubbard and Shippobottom 1988]
Plan of the Village of Port Sunlight, 1914 (Unilever Archive, Port Sunlight) [reproduced in Hubbard and Shippobottom 1988]
M Shippobottom in consultation with E Hubbard, Port Sunlight 1938: Plan of the Village at the time of the first Jubilee, drawn c 1988 (in Hubbard and Shippobottom 1988)
OS 6" to 1 mile:
1st edition published 1882
OS 25" to 1 mile:
2nd edition published 1899
Description written: February 2002, Amended: April 2002
Register Inspector: HMT
Edited: February 2003
The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens Grade II Reference GD5154
Conservation Area Reference Port Sunlight Conservation Area
Factory Created 1888 to 1889
The factory was designed by William Owen and soap production commenced in June 1889.
External web site link: http://www.portsunlightvillage.com/
External web site link: http://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001637