Day 2. Port Sunlight & The Ness Gardens, The Wirral

After starting the day with a brisk walk along the seafront at Hoylake, we popped back into the car and headed to Ness Botanic Gardens located in Neston, Cheshire.  The gardens are open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. with standard admission £8.25

Visitor Centre at Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire
Visitor Centre at Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire

The gardens were founded in 1898 by Arthur Kilpin Bulley, a Liverpool cotton merchant with a passion for plants.  In 1948, six years after his death his daughter gave the gardens to the University of Liverpool on condition they be kept open to the public as Botanic Gardens.

Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire
Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire

Entrance is through a large modern visitor centre with a gift shop, cafe and garden centre.  After picking up a map we followed winding paths through the beautifully tendered gardens.  Our visit was in August when the herbaceous borders were awash with colour, with clear labelling on many of the plants aiding identification.

Floral displays at Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire
Floral displays in Ness Botanic Gardens

The gardens are planted to provide interest at all times of the year from magnificent snowdrop displays in February through to azaleas and rhododendrons as the year progresses.  Ness Gardens cover 64 acres and are home to more than 15,000 plants, many collected on expeditions to the Far East sponsored by its founder.

Potager Garden, Ness Botanical Garden
The Potager Garden

The Victorian potager garden looked delightful with its colourful array of flowers, fruit and vegetables.  Produce from this plot is used in the Ness Botanic Kitchen Cafe, ideal for their homemade soups and desserts.

Views across the Dee Estuary, Ness Gardens
Enjoying views across the Dee Estuary in the Ness Gardens

I liked the idea of the brightly coloured deckchairs scattered around the gardens and the large number of wooden benches to rest and take in the wonderful views over the Dee estuary towards North Wales.

Sunflower Garden, Ness Botanic Garden, Cheshire
The Sunflower Garden

The gardens are family oriented having a large adventure playground for young children and with plenty of room to run around and play, would make an ideal outing for a picnic.  The wildflower meadows were also ablaze with colour and it was good to see so many bees and different varieties of butterflies there.  I tried in vain to take a photo of the butterflies but, even with my camera on burst mode they were too quick at closing their wings before I could press the shutter.

Garden Centre, Ness Botanic Gardens, Cheshire
The Ness Gardens plant centre

Before leaving, we looked at some of the plants for sale and were surprised on returning to the car to find its large car park almost full.  It was obviously a good idea to arrive shortly after opening time on such a sunny summer’s day, so this may be worth bearing in mind when planning a visit.

Port Sunlight Village
Port Sunlight village homes

Our next stop was Port Sunlight, a place I’ve long wished to visit.  The historic village is approached either from Liverpool via the Queensway Tunnel or from elsewhere by leaving the M53 at Junction 4.  There is ample free parking available outside the Lady Lever Art Gallery which is clearly signposted.

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight

The village was founded in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever famous for his Sunlight Soap, to house his factory workers in a 56 acre parkland setting.  Port Sunlight contains more than 900 listed buildings which have now been preserved for future generations to enjoy as it is the finest surviving example of early urban planning in the U.K.

Port Sunlight Museum
Port Sunlight Museum

There’s a fascinating museum, renowned art gallery, village hall, church and beautifully manicured gardens to explore.  Visitors are welcome to wander around the village and viewing the art gallery is free of charge.  However, to make the most of a visit to Port Sunlight I suggest purchasing the Experience ticket (standard adult £8) as this allows entry to the museum, worker’s cottage and the new soap works exhibit.

Sunlight Soap, Port Sunlight Museum
Sunlight Soap, Port Sunlight Museum

Tickets can be purchased in the museum foyer so we decided to visit there first.  An optional 25 minute film was just about to start so we settled ourselves down to learn about Lord Lever, the Port Sunlight village and his soap empire which has since become the multi-national Unilever business.  The film takes visitors on a journey of some of the actual people who lived at Port Sunlight from the young teenager working in the packing area to the elderly man tending the allotments.

Port Sunlight Museum exhibits
Exhibits in the Port Sunlight Museum

Looking around the museum, it celebrates the unique heritage of this magnificent, historic village with galleries covering its people, architecture, parks and gardens from its early beginnings to life in the village today.

Houses in Port Sunlight village
Houses in Port Sunlight village

As both an entrepreneur and philanthropist Lord Lever realised the economic benefits of investing in his workers’ well-being and for them to live in a healthy environment.  To this end, he provided good quality housing, schools, and a cottage hospital.  He also planned open spaces to encourage his workers to participate in sports and instigated recreational clubs for them to join.  In terms of design, he did not wish the village to be of a uniform design so employed over 30 different architects to work on the project.

Varied styles of housing in Port Sunlight
Varied styles of housing in Port Sunlight

A separate house was built for each family with a parlour (living room), bedrooms and kitchen.  The homes were innovative for their time as they had inside WC’s and bathrooms which most of the working class did not yet have access to, offering a high standard of comfort.

Village bowling green, Port Sunlight
Village bowling green, Port Sunlight

The Port Sunlight Village Trust took over the running of the village in April 1999 and it is now independent of Unilever with the original village, gardens and buildings remaining the same.

Port Sunlight soaps on display in the Port Sunlight Museum
Port Sunlight soaps on display in the Port Sunlight Museum

We learnt how Lord Lever made his fortune selling individually wrapped bars of soap and of the lives and leisure interests of his workers.  There’s lots of nostalgia from vintage soap packaging to the story of Ringo Starr’s first performance with The Beatles, which took place in Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight in 1962.

Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight
Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight

On leaving the museum we headed next door to step inside a worker’s cottage and experience life in Port Sunlight in Edwardian times.  The recreated home was formerly home to the Carr family who were long time tenants.  The cottage was furnished as it would have been in the early 1900’s and must have been very comfortable to return home to after a day in the nearby soap works.  The factory is still there today producing liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner for Unilever.

Inside of a worker's Cottage, Port Sunlight
Inside the parlour of the Workers Cottage

From there, we explored the village on foot, marvelling at the mix of architecture and the well tended gardens.  Our stroll took us alongside the village bowling green, then onto the village church, where in the churchyard we viewed the elaborate black marble tombs of Lord and Lady Lever who died in 1925 and 1913 respectively.

Village church, Port Sunlight
Village church, Port Sunlight

Our Experience ticket permitted access to the new Soap Works exhibition in the old school room.  Here, we were able to see some of the processes that went into the making of Sunlight soap and by using interactive devices we could find out what Unilever produce today.  The Soap Works is aimed at school children but of interest to adults as well.

Soap Works, Port Sunlight
Soap Works, Port Sunlight

We then wandered around the village and through the central gardens to the Lady Lever Art Gallery near where we had parked the car.  The gallery (admission free) is a real treasure trove with its collection of paintings, Chinese ceramics, tapestries and sculpture.  Paintings on display include works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Stubbs, and Turner to name but a few.

Stone Arch and Gardens, Port Sunlight
Stone Arch and Gardens, Port Sunlight

The building is an artwork in itself with its twin rotundas, Gothic pillars and elegant galleried landings.  Lord and Lady Lever’s vast collection is remarkable and shouldn’t be missed.

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight

This concluded our visit to Port Sunlight with its beautiful model village and fascinating museum.  My visit had been a long time coming, but the wait was certainly worthwhile as, along with our visit  to the Ness Botanic Garden it had been a day to remember.  Do try and visit if you are visiting Cheshire or Liverpool.

Attractive housing in Port Sunlight Village
Attractive housing in Port Sunlight Village

Our short break was supported by Visit Wirral and its varied attractions.

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like:

Exploring Liverpool – Pier Head and Albert Dock

The Lion Salt Works & Anderton Boat Lift, Northwich Cheshire

 

If you use Pinterest please consider sharing and pinning the image below:

Port Sunlight & Ness Gardens, The Wirral

 

63 thoughts on “Day 2. Port Sunlight & The Ness Gardens, The Wirral

  1. ThingsHelenLoves

    Port Sunlight looks wonderful, Lord Lever was a very forward thinking man. Imagine living there and writing that as your address, I wouldn’t be able to do it without smiling. Another great postcard from an unusual but lovely place, really enjoyed this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post as always, not heard of Port Sunlight before but it looks like an interesting place. These villages and towns that were specially built are always incredibly worthwhile visiting. Lovely photos and so much interesting information. Great.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve read about Port Sunlight and seen it featured on TV, from time to time, and I have always thought that it would be a fascinating place to visit. Your post has convinced me even more! I hope you have a lovely weekend, Marion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for taking an interest in this post on Port Sunlight June. The village is indeed fascinating and the products. brought back memories of my childhood when my Mother would clean the sink with Vim and hand wash delicates in Lux Flakes! Have a lovely weekend too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Lord Lever’s Port Sunlight village is really beautiful and was interesting to explore. His philanthropic ways obviously paid off as his soap works empire was very successful. The Ness Gardens were also really lovely to explore. Hope you have a good weekend. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Those products were familiar to me as well as my mother also had her cupboard stocked with Vim for cleaning sinks and Lux Flakes for hand washing woollens etc. Port Sunlight was so interesting to visit as were the BotanicGardens. Thanks so much for your welcome thoughts and I hope your weekend goes well Gwen. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

          1. Our State Premier just resigned over a corruption enquiry to do with her idiot former boyfriend. (Insert swear words here). Right in the middle of this runaway outbreak! Let’s see who is calling the shots tomorrow . Oh, it’s a funny old world we find ourselves in.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I love to explore botanical gardens – all the greenery and little pathways is such a wonderful way of enjoying nature … and it seems you had it also here at the Ness Botanic Gardens (beautiful pictures). Oh, and I was so surprised to read about Port Sunlight … I always have Sunlight soap in our house and never really gave it a thought of where it came from – now I know!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It put a smile on my face to learn that you buy Sunlight soap! Visiting Port Sunlight was so interesting and to discover that Lord Lever took so much care of his workers. Ness Gardens was also lovely with so many plants in flower. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love both these spots Marion. So nice that people would think of others…the family donating the garden to the Public Trust and Mr. Lever creating a village for his workers. This area looks so lovely. Thanks for sharing Marion. Hope all is well. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Ness Botanic Gardens looks beautiful with all those wildflowers. That’s pretty incredible to hear that the gardens were gifted to the University of Liverpool on the condition that they be kept open to the public to enjoy. Port Sunlight looks like it would be fun to explore. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post and wonderful photos, Marion 🙂 Calming, relaxing, full of greenery and beautiful plants, Botanical Gardens, especially if they come with water features or other wonderful decorations thrown into the mix, are always a joy to visit. Thanks for sharing, and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.