This Remembrance Sunday sees the reopening of one of the most significant War Memorials in the country, following months of vital conservation work to protect it.
Port Sunlight’s War Memorial – called Defence of the Realm – is one of the largest in the UK and is Grade I listed. It is owned and looked after by Port Sunlight Village Trust, an independent charity which aims to preserve the famous ‘model village’ in Wirral.
Port Sunlight was created in the late 19th century according to the vision of William Lever, who wanted to provide beautiful and sanitary housing for the soap factory workers of his Lever Brothers company, which later became Unilever. The village is arguably the finest surviving example of early urban planning in the UK.
Designed by sculptor Sir William Goscombe John, the memorial was completed in 1921 and commemorates employees who lost their lives in the First World War, as well as employees and village residents who died in the Second World War.
Port Sunlight’s War Memorial is particularly noted for its bronze figures and panels, which include women and children alongside soldiers. This was seen as unusual at the time, however it is something many visitors appreciate today.
Port Sunlight Village Trust carries out an annual programme of conservation across the many buildings and monuments it cares for in the village, and the War Memorial was identified by specialists as one of the priorities for 2023.
Work carried out this year included cleaning and conserving the bronze figures, removing and replacing defective pointing to the upper part of the monument, at this stage, as well as gently cleaning the whole structure.
Jean Milton, Director of Heritage at Port Sunlight Village Trust, said, “Surveys identified some areas of the War Memorial’s structure that were suffering from environmental impacts.
“We’re experiencing increasingly extreme weather patterns due to climate change, so we needed to act by bringing in specialist conservators from Bullen Conservation to carry out careful conservation works, including gently steam cleaning the stonework.
“We also welcomed bronze conservators to clean and wax the War Memorial’s beautiful bronze figures and relief panels, which are a precious part of Port Sunlight’s heritage. To see Goscombe John’s works of art gleaming once again is a special sight.”
It was important for Port Sunlight Village Trust to have this programme of work completed in time for Remembrance Sunday, when the village becomes a focal point for local people wanting to pay their respects.
This year, a service led by the village’s Christ Church will begin around the War Memorial at 10.45am on Sunday 12 November. There will be a parade, laying of wreaths and a two-minute silence, before the service continues in Christ Church at 11.15am.
A moving ‘River of Poppies’ has also been installed on the tower of Christ Church, featuring 3,500 poppies created by more than 80 knitters from the local community over the past year.
Jean Milton continued, “We’re looking forward to welcoming the many people who gather in Port Sunlight every Remembrance Sunday, drawn here by its special War Memorial. We’re proud to care for this monument and piece of Port Sunlight’s heritage, which means so much to so many.
“We’re continuing to monitor the War Memorial as part of our ongoing maintenance programme in consultation with specialist conservators. Our conservation and maintenance programme for next year is being finalised and we will share more information about this ongoing work soon.”