Part of National Museums Liverpool
Skip to main content
Back to National Museums Liverpool
Discover treasures from around the world, explore outer space and meet live creatures!
Things to see
Schools and groups
Collections and research
Sculptures from Kouklia, Cyprus
Explore the collection
William Hesketh Lever
1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851 - 1925), English industrialist and philanthropist who founded the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 1922
William Hesketh Lever was a multimillionaire businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was born in Bolton, the son of a wholesale grocer. He left school at 16 to join the family firm which he expanded and transformed. In 1884 he decided to focus on just one product - household soap - primarily because of its potential for marketing in pre-wrapped bars under a brand name. Previously soap had to be cut to order from a single large block.
Two years later he began to manufacture soap himself and set up the firm of Lever Brothers with his invalid brother. He initially produced his soap in an existing factory but by 1888 had outgrown the site and moved to a purpose built and much larger building on the Wirral shore of the Mersey. He also built a village to house his employees and named it Port Sunlight after his most successful brand of soap.
Within a few years the interests of his company Lever Brothers stretched from the United Kingdom to West Africa, the Pacific and the United States. The company grew until Lever was employing 85,000 workers around the world in 1925. The success of his company made Lever very rich. By 1912 in addition to his income, he had personal assets valued at nearly three million pounds. Lever made a large contribution to the lives of ordinary people. He built Port Sunlight to provide his workforce with good housing. He campaigned for better welfare and a shorter working day, and supported building, education and medical projects.
Lever also became a passionate collector of art on a scale unmatched in Britain since his death and he used his enormous wealth to put together an outstanding collection. He purpose-built the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which opened in Port Sunlight on 16 December 1922, in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth, with the intention of using it to display his extensive art collection.
Mr William Lever: 1851–1911
Sir William Lever, Bt: 1911–1917
The Rt Hon. The Lord Leverhulme: 1917–1922
The Rt Hon. The Viscount Leverhulme: 1922–1925
Place of birth
Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Lancashire: Bolton
Place of death
Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Greater London: Hampstead
Cause of death
No matching records found
See all items
Explore the collection by...
Evreti Tomb 10
Evreti Tomb 3A
Evreti Tomb 7
Skales Tomb II
See all places
See all materials
People and organisations
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
St Andrews University and Liverpool Museums Kouklia Expedition
See all people
Page load time: 656 ms
Find us on
Cookies and data protection
© Copyright 2017