W.H. Lever

Music Room at Thornton Manor and Soap pans at Sunlight Soap Works, Port Sunlight, Wirral|

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Music Room, Thornton Manor, Thornton Hough, Wirral, 1903
© English Heritage: BL17551

Right: Soap pans, Sunlight Soap Works, Port Sunlight, Wirral, 1897
© English Heritage: BL14041/020

For the soap manufacturer William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, Bedford Lemere & Co. not only photographed his house but also his ideal industrial village, Port Sunlight, with its factory at its centre. Lever was just one of a number of wealthy businessmen on the Mersey who commissioned the firm to record their homes and premises.

Thornton Manor, the home of W. H. Lever, was altered and enlarged over a 25-year period. The music room, designed by J. J. Talbot in the Renaissance style, was influenced by the picture gallery at Dawpool. This was the home of Thomas Ismay, a neighbour of Lever's and a fellow client of Bedford Lemere & Co.

Soap is made by mixing fats with alkali. The photograph on the right records the surprisingly primitive nature of its production. During the late 19th century the consumption of soap increased. This was due to the removal of the soap tax in 1853, the greater availability of piped water and the growing provision of bathrooms in middle-class homes.

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