Port Sunlight bids for World Heritage status

21st June 2022

Seeking greater international recognition of the historic village, Port Sunlight Village Trust is teaming up with Wirral Council, National Museums Liverpool and Unilever to apply for the Unesco award.

Liverpool Enterprise Partnership website images.
Images by Gareth Jones

According to the village trust, achieving World Heritage Site status would help unlock funding for conservation efforts, maintenance and future improvements. It could also increase the number of visitors to the area.

Port Sunlight was founded by William Hesketh Lever in 1888 as a home for the workers of his ‘Sunlight Soap’ factory. The village now boasts a museum and art gallery and is known for its signature architecture.

In submitting a bid to the UK government, the village trust is hoping to earn a spot on the country’s ‘tentative list’. This list is crafted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and includes up to ten sites.

The UK will then choose a nominee from the list to put forward to Unesco for World Heritage Site status. Once Unesco has seen a bid, the process can take up to three years for the United Nations organisation to make a decision on whether or not to grant the site World Heritage status.

“The UK’s tentative list is typically only reviewed at ten-yearly intervals so this is a rare opportunity that must be seized,” said Paul Harris, chief executive at Port Sunlight Village Trust.

“We are pursuing inscription to celebrate Port Sunlight’s global value – a radical and influential innovation in community design and development for well-being and productivity for all people,” he explained.

“In addition, we believe that inscription will support and inspire further collaborative working with our community and stakeholders, engagement with other inscribed sites and research institutions to unlock the site’s global legacies, increase opportunities for local enterprise, and foster pride.”

Alyson Pollard, head of Lady Lever Art Gallery at National Museums Liverpool shared her support for the bid.

“The village has a unique and significant history in terms of its architecture and industrial heritage,” she said. “The opportunity to share this more widely with visitors as a result of such an accolade would be wonderful for Wirral and the local community.”

Unilever Port Sunlight head Cameron Jones said his company was happy to be a strategic partner in Port Sunlight’s application.

“We are very proud of our historic UK home, created by our company founder, William Lever, to provide his Sunlight Soap workers with decent and affordable houses,” Jones said.

Wirral Council leader Cllr Janette Williamson said the authority would work with the village to win Unesco recognition.

Williamson said: “As an active partner of the bid, we have witnessed first-hand the remarkable character and passion this village, and the team of staff and volunteers has to achieve this enormous global accolade; a place that so many communities on the Wirral feel such pride for.

“We look forward to working with them, in every way possible, to achieve a successful outcome.”

Port Sunlight faces local competition for a spot on the tentative list – Birkenhead Park is also submitting a bid.

Last year, the slate hills and mines of Gwynedd became one of the newest World Heritage Sites.

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21st June 2022