Viscount Leverhulme (A Misplaced Elizabethan)

He was the sort of man who, if shipwrecked, would be likely to land upon an island with his hands full of edible seaweed. The luck of this lucky man was really innate resourcefulness that is properly an almost perfect self-adaptation to environment. All through his life this quality never failed Lever. Only in one respect has his good fortune lapsed, and that is in his reputation since his death.

His name survives as that of a prodigiously successful soap maker, and the world thinks that is all he was. Yet his business was the least part of his greatness. His mental qualities are self-sufficient to make him one of the most interesting men of the century, but they have become submerged in his works – Port Sunlight, Lever Brothers Limited, Art Galleries- and the true personality of the creator has been lost. William Hesketh Lever is much larger than his prestige.

The luck of this lucky man was really innate resourcefulness that is properly an almost perfect self-adaptation to environment

In 1888 William Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, began construction of the village and factory in Port Sunlight, later to include The Lady Lever Art Gallery, In the same year his wife Elizabeth Ellen and son William Hulme Lever moved into Thornton Manor, a modest manor house. Five years later he purchased Thornton Manor, and over a period of 25 years reconstructed the house and its grounds. With Levers’ detailed instruction, one of the great merchant palaces was created, but with a unique homely feel. It survives virtually unaltered, and remains a private manor house.

Viscount Leverhulme was the worlds’ greatest industrialist, creating the first multi national company in the world. He was the largest private land owner, builder of towns, collector of Victorian paintings, English furniture and Wedgewood porcelain. Lever micromanaged everything he touched, having 250 companies with 80,000 staff, still making time to become a Liberal MP.

He introduced the Old Age Pension, the 40- hour week and put a Bill forward for decimalising the currency in c1900. He set up The School Of Civic Design and Town Planning, re-endowed the School of Tropical Medicine at Liverpool University, and also purchased the Bluecoat Chambers and Lancaster House to prevent them being demolished, giving Lancaster House to the nation. He lived in and altered 14 homes.

Lever the great philanthropist, unlike others, continuously gave, bettering others prior to amassing his fortune.

Lever, a health enthusiast, slept in an outside bedroom at Thornton Manor with the roof open to the elements, this remaining intact. He travelled to virtually every major country in the world selling soap, purchasing land, building factories and plantations. Lever was, at this time, the most well known man in the world, Port Sunlight, The Lady Lever Art Gallery and the factory being amongst the major tourist attractions of the world. However, after his death he became virtually unknown.

The second William Hulme Lever inherited the title on his Fathers’ death and lived at Thornton Manor until his own death in 1949. Unlike his father he was educated at Eton and then graduated from Cambridge University in 1913 with a Masters in the Arts.

The third Lord Leverhulme, Philip William Bryce Lever, moved into The Manor following his Father’s death. Philip was fanatical about horse racing, and had a stud at the Manor. He was a friend of the Royal Family, Her Majesty the Queen Mother stayed regularly at Thornton Manor sharing with Phillip his passion for horse racing. Other members of the Royal Family would also stay at Thornton Manor including Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, and Lord Snowdon, along with many other visitors such as members of other royal families, heads of state, Prime Ministers and politicians, captains of industry and people of the arts and academic world.

Men Of Stress (1948) Harley Williams

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