Civil engineering

William Lever and his team built Port Sunlight on marshy land criss-crossed by tidal inlets. The village is a testament to privately-funded civil engineering works used to overcome challenging site conditions.

Photograph of Victoria Bridge and the Bridge Inn, c. 1901. From the Edward John Jenkins collection, Port Sunlight Museum.

 

The Drawn Together project digitised drawings for the houses, monuments and non-residential buildings in the village. Regarding civil engineering, the collection includes drawings for the Port Sunlight railway station and a 1930s tracing of the original drawings for Victoria Bridge. It does not currently include drawings for the culverts, dams, factory, docks or associated structures. Port Sunlight Village Trust aims to secure funding to expand the digital collection to include these drawings in future.

A Challenging Site

Despite the industrial potential of the site, there were a lot of factors that would have put developers off. The land was at the mercy of water from the east and west. Port Sunlight lies on sloping ground and it was built on tidal creeks and underground streams.

The tidal creeks filled with water from the River Mersey at high tide. These tidal creeks covered a total area of 25 acres, by 1902 Lever Brothers had acquired them to expand the village.

None of this put off the Lever Brothers team though. The company’s civil engineering team dammed the biggest tidal creek at what is now Wharf Street. They built a series of culverts under the roads, to divert the water from higher ground. These took the water through the village and out into Bromborough Pool.

One of tidal inlets the originally crossed Port Sunlight. View is of present day Water Street. c. 1902 from the Edward John Jenkins collection, Port Sunlight Museum

Culverts and vent pipes

One culvert followed the course of the main tidal creek then picked up an underground stream flowing into the village from the Dacre Hill area of Bebington. You can still find this culvert’s location above ground. Look for several ornate vent pipes situated along village roads.

The original culverts are still in place. They are five-foot high, beautifully built, blue brick drains. At low tide they are big enough to walk through, but they fill with sea water twice a day at high tide.