We have been living in something of a cultural desert since Christmas so we decided to do something about it and visit an art gallery. Manchester has an abundance of them but I suggested the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight on the Wirral Penisnsula. I had ulterior motives.

For people outside the UK, and some in it, the Wirral Peninsula is a piece of land between the estuaries of the Rivers Mersey and Dee. On the north bank of the Mersey estuary is the city of Liverpool. If you make a bit of money in Liverpool, it’s common for people to move out of the city. Some go north towards the pretty seaside town of Southport or into the pleasant, green Lancashire countryside. Others choose to cross the Mersey (either by the ferries or the tunnels) and move into the tree lined suburbs of the Wirral.

It’s not all pleasant, tree lined suburbs, around Birkenhead it is all docks and very industrial. A Victorian industrialist who came from nothing, Lord Lever, created a chemical company and made a fortune. He set up a chemical works on the Wirral where he made his various products including his famous ‘Sunlight’ soap. The plant, modernised, is still there. Lord Lever was very concerned about the welfare of his workers while others weren’t. He acquired a plot of land next to his plant a built a model village for his workers. He called it Port Sunlight, after his famous soap.The houses were head and shoulders above the standards many workers had in Victorian times. They were roomy and had three bedrooms so that the parents could sleep separately from the children and the boys and girls would have separate rooms. They had bathrooms with running hot and cold water, amazing in those days. They had gardens with lawns out front and back gardens where people could grow fruit and vegetables. The houses were built of the highest standards and had different designs.

The streets were wide and tree lined. He had churches, schools and community centres built and, at the centre of the village, he had the Lady Lever Gallery built which he used to house his extensive art collection and open to all so his workers could enjoy it and be inspired by it. He encouraged the children of his workers to strive for further education and financially supported them. Concerts and plays were put on in the village’s auditorium.

You could be out in a village in rural Cheshire but you’re actually close to the centre of the big city of Liverpool.

Here’s the Lady Lever Gallery.

A taste of Lord Lever’s art collection, still free and open to the public to enjoy.

Lord Lever actually had a house in the village as well. He lived here while his mansion, nearby, was being renovated. He had another estate near Bolton on the edge of Greater Manchester as well. It was also convenient for his office a couple of hundred metres away. It’s now a community house where people from the village come to meet up. Here it is. I was stood outside and was invited in for a little tour. All very interesting.

But I’d really come to see the house next door to the community house. In Peaky Blinders, when Tommy starts to make a serious amount of money he starts to launder it to make it respectable. Ada gets a rather nice house in Primrose Hill in London (actually it’s in a street in the Georgian quarter of Liverpool across the river from Port Sunlight). And Aunt Polly gets a nice house in tree lined Sutton Coldfield, a nice suburb of Birmingham I’m told. It gives her a nice place to house her newly rediscovered son, Michael. And she engages a maid. Here they are arriving to take possession. Aunt Polly leads the way followed by Tommy, sadly missed John and youngest brother Finn. Arthur must have been having one of his ‘issues’ on this day. Of course you can take the girl out of Small Heath but you can’t take Small Heath out of the girl. When the police noisily raid Aunt Polly’s house looking for assorted Peaky Blinders, she rushes out into the street telling them ‘Keep it quiet! This is a respectable fucking neighbourhood!’

And here is the actual house. I tried to stand where the above picture was taken but couldn’t as I’d have been on someone’s garden.

The ‘church’ appears in Peaky Blinders. It’s not actually a church but was used as one for a while, while they built to actual church on the other side of the village. It’s been a school and is now a community club called The Lyceum.

Tommy has a moment’s reflection on this bridge close to Aunt Polly’s house.

Here’s my picture of the actual bridge.

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