Links in a Chain - the Mayors of Bolton
Links in a Chain - The Mayors of Bolton
HomeBoltonFarnworthKearsleyLittle LeverHorwichWesthoughtonTurtonBlackrodMayoral InsigniaFreedom of BoltonCivic HeraldryBolton Town HallIndexLinksThanksContact Us

Lord Leverhulme (William Hesketh Lever)

Mayor of Bolton:1918-19

Born: 16 Wood Street, Bolton 19 September 1851

Died: Hampstead, London 7 May 1925

Educated: The Misses Aspinwall's Private School, Bolton; Kay's Private School; Bolton Church Institute

Soap magnate, art collector and generous benefactor of his home town.

Son of Bolton grocer, James Lever, he was the founder of Lever Brothers and Sunlight Soap - later to become the Unilever business empire.

He was made Freeman of County Borough of Bolton on 10 November 1902.

He was Knighted on 6 July 1911 and was appointed High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1917.

Created Baron Leverhulme of Bolton-le-Moors on 21 June 1917 and Viscount Leverhulme of the Western Isles on 27 November 1922.

In 1913 he re-endowed Bolton Grammar School and Bolton High School for Girls forming in 1915 what is now Bolton School. His house at Westbourne, Chorley New Road, coupled with the purchase of adjoining properties provided the land and some of the premises for the new schools.

On establishing his main manufacturing operation in Cheshire he built the garden village community of Port Sunlight, later including the Lady Lever Art Gallery in memory of his late wife, to house and educate his workforce close to the new Sunlight Soap factory.

In 1899 Lever bought Hall i'th' Wood - thus rescuing it from terminal neglect. By the time he presented the house to the town in 1902 he had restored it, turned it into a museum and filled it with furniture and household goods of the 16th and 17th centuries as an example of early domestic family life. It was also intended to be a fitting memorial to its most famous resident, Samuel Crompton - inventor of the Spinning Mule.

In 1914 Bolton Corporation entered into negotiations to buy 67 acres of land for a public park. When the First World War broke out, Government restrictions made it impossible to raise all of the money necessary for the purchase. On learning of this Lever bought the land and presented it to the town. He went on to buy further pieces of land to enlarge the Park, later named by the Corporation as Leverhulme Park. It now extends to 98 acres, 88 of which were donated by Lever.

In November 1918 - by which time he had become Lord Leverhulme - he was invited to become Mayor of Bolton. This was the first and only time that the Council had looked beyond its own ranks for a candidate and the number of seats on the Council was increased by 1 to 97 for the Mayoral year.

He was invited, not because of his national eminence, but because they wanted to honour a "Notable son of the Town" and to express the regard that Bolton had for him by bestowing the highest honour that the town had to give.

Alderman Edmund Aspinall formally proposed the election of Leverhulme in a long speech extolling his virtues as a businessman, national asset and for his continuing interest in Bolton and the welfare of its people. He also expressed pleasure that the Council had, after many years, appointed a Housing and Town Planning Committee to control the future development of the Borough and he hoped that under the "Guidance and impelling force of His Lordship" it would go forward with its work, not only preserving beauty spots, but preventing the congestion of buildings and providing open spaces to add health, happiness and morality to the people.

During his acceptance speech Leverhulme spoke of his pride in Bolton and that in this town every memorable event of his life had occurred. He had been born here, became engaged here (when his income was just 1 shilling a week), was married here and apprenticed to his father's grocery business at the age of 15.

Leverhulme's wife, Lady Elizabeth Ellen Lever, had died in 1913 so his daughter-in-law, Marion, Mrs William Hulme Lever, undertook the duties of Mayoress. She gave birth to his third grandchild , Rosemary Lever, on 23 April 1919 and - as had become a Mayoral tradition - the birth was commemorated by a presentation of a silver cradle to her from the Council.

During his time as Mayor he organized a Victory Ball in the Town Hall and a Summer Garden Party in Queen's Park which was attended by 3000 people including all the ex-servicemen of Bolton and their wives and families.

He discovered that a complicated differential rating system operated in Bolton, there being as many as 14 different district rates. He thought that this was both unnecessarily complicated and wasteful and he urged that rates should be unified and a consolidated rate introduced. Whilst not implemented during his year of office the Bolton Corporation Act 1922 embodied many of the improvements for which he had pressed.

On 5 February 1919 he attended a meeting of the  Bolton Managers and Overlookers Association and, in the course of his speech to them, he offered to arrange (at his own expense) for five members of the Association to visit the United States for a period of five weeks in order to study the conditions existing in the American Cotton Industry. The delegation visited the US and Canada and the results of the visit were published as a book - it being a condition of the offer that each one wrote a report for the benefit of the people of Bolton.

He opened the YMCA premises on Deansgate, Bolton as Mayor on 2 October 1919.

In 1911 Lever had sought the advice of Thomas Mawson - a distinguished landscape architect of the period and sometime Lecturer on Landscape Design at the University of Liverpool - regarding Town Planning in Bolton. The result was a publication, "Bolton - a Study in Town Planning and Civic Art" and Mawson gave six public lectures entitled "Bolton Housing and Town Planning Society". These formed the basis of a large illustrated book published in 1916, "Bolton - as it is and as it might be".

Years later, in 1924, Leverhulme presented Bolton with a radically ambitious plan to rebuild the town centre, based on those very designs. In spite of Leverhulme offering to fund a large part of the scheme himself the project was politely declined by the Council in favour of the eventual extension of the Town Hall and the construction of the Civic Centre.

He became a prominent Freemason (and an enthusiastic collector of Masonic insignia) after his workers in Port Sunlight petitioned him to allow a Masonic Lodge in the village.

Congregationalist. There are several commemorative stained glass windows dedicated to the Leverhulme family in St George's Road Congregational Church - now the Church of St Andrew and St George, St George's Road, Bolton - where Lever himself was married in 1874.

 

Click for larger image Full length photograph of Lord Leverhulme as Mayor of Bolton.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image Full length photograph of Lord Leverhulme as Mayor of Bolton.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image Full length portrait of Lord Leverhulme as Mayor of Bolton by Sir William Orpen - see here for more details.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image Lord Leverhulme as Mayor of Bolton outside the Ministry of National Service Area Headquarters after presenting the Mons Star to 27 Bolton soldiers.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

View across boulevard towards new museum in Queen's Park.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

View from Town Hall along proposed new avenue leading to the Parish Church.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

View of back of Town Hall from new boulevard leading to Queen's Park.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

View of junction of boulevard and road leading into town.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

General view of new boulevard and museum.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image What might have been - Bolton, A Study in Town Planning and Civic Art - published by Viscount Leverhulme 1911.

View from new avenue towards Victoria Square.

Click for larger image
Lord LeverhulmeLever Family Tree • pdfClick for larger image

Lord Leverhulme's link on the Mayor of Bolton's Chain of Office.

Click for larger image

Per pale argent and barry of eight or and azure, overall two bendlets sable with the upper one engrailed ; in dexter base a rose gules barbed and seeded proper and in sinister chief a chaplet gules.

Crest - On a mount of the colours a cockerel proper standing upon a trumpet fessways or Motto= MUTARE VEL TIMERE SPERNO (I scorn to change or fear)

Leverhulme changed his coat of arms several times and this is but one version. As High Sheriff he omitted the Hulme impalement but included his badge as a baronet but curiously left it out of his Mayoral arms.

Later the charges were moved about and finally Lever was quartered with Hulme. He kept the crest and motto constant though.

The cockerel and trumpet represent a visual pun on the word 'Lever' being also French for 'get up'.

 

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo
Arms of Bolton Metropolitan Borough
Bolton Council
colour band