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Description: Gatehouse to Thornton Manor and Attached Courtyard Walls
Date Listed: 2 December 1986
English Heritage Building ID: 215483
OS Grid Reference: SJ3008481662
OS Grid Coordinates: 330084, 381662
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3272, -3.0512
BEBINGTON MANOR ROAD
SJ 38 SW
6/156 Gatehouse to
Gatehouse to Thornton Manor, 1910, by James Lomax Simpson. Red sandstone set upon moulded plinth with timber-framed 1st floor, stone slate roof. Mullion windows with leaded glazing. 2 storeys. Attached courtyard wall.
EXTERIOR: 3-bays. Windows set within stonework with carved surrounds and double chamfered mullions. Substantial Tudor style chimneystacks with octagonal shafts and decorative caps rise from rear of pitched roof. Decorative moulded lead downpipes and gutters. Wide recessed Tudor-arched carriageway to centre of ground floor with decorative spandrels, carved corbels above in the form of grotesques.
Front SE elevation (facing Manor Road): large studded heavy timber 18-panel double doors with cusped upper panels, decorative strap hinges, small square barred spy-hole to right door. Canted sides containing 3-light mullion windows. 5-light mullion window to ground floor right bay with central king mullions. Deep cove to timber framed first floor, decorative carved and corbelled bressumer, timberwork incorporating quatrefoil designs. Wide 7-light canted oriel window with diamond leaded lights to centre of first floor, supported by large carved corbel displaying Viscount Leverhulme's coat of arms, which incorporates spotted elephants. Coat of arms also incorporates banner with motto reading 'MUTARE VEL TIMERE SPERNO' ('I scorn to change or to fear'). Large central gable above with decorative patterned timberwork and carved bargeboards. Paired 2-light mullion windows recessed into coving to two outer bays. Rear NW elevation (facing main house): similarly styled to front elevation. 2-storey stone canted stair bay with small single lights to ground floor and half-landing level, 4-light window to first floor. 3-light mullion window to ground floor right. 5-light mullion window recessed to centre of timber framed first floor. Decorative timberwork and mullion windows to side elevations in same style. Carriageway: Tudor arched doorways to each side with 3-panel doors incorporating moulded fillets, cusped ogee-shaped heads and timber tracery. Small square barred spy-hole to door to SW side (leading into porter's office/kiosk). High sandstone wall with gate piers surmounted by ball finials attached to each side of gatehouse, continues around entrance courtyard to connect to front elevation of Thornton Manor.
INTERIOR: Ground floor areas separated by central carriageway. Bedroom and small bathroom to left (SW) side with original panelled and partly glazed porter's kiosk. Living accommodation to right (NE) side with lounge containing fireplace with moulded surround. Kitchen with tiled floor, some original built-in cupboards, door to SW wall provides access into small yard area containing single-storey storage outhouses. First floor accommodation, accessed by winder stair to rear right stair bay, spans across entire building. Panelled landing area, corridor to rear, three bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms to front. Original panelled doors, moulded skirtings, timber floorboard floors (some under later carpets), and some built-in cupboards survive throughout.
HISTORY: William Hesketh Lever was born in 1851 in Bolton, Lancashire. After training in his father's grocery business from the age of 16 he was made a junior partner in 1872, and a year later he expanded the business to a second premises in Wigan. From these twin bases Lever further expanded the company's activities into manufacturing soap, first at Warrington and eventually at Port Sunlight. By this time the company had become 'Lever Brothers', established with his brother James (although William was always the lead partner). The company went on to possess factories and mills around the world including the Congo, as Lever expanded the business into the production and processing of raw materials, and eventually diversified into other areas. Lever Brothers became one of the largest multinational companies in the world during the late C19/early C20, and is still in operation today as Unilever.
William Lever was a Liberal MP, social reformer, and a pioneer of good worker-employee relations. He introduced the 8 hour working day, and provided a pay policy greater than any other company in the country. In 1905 he also provided pensions for his staff (3 years before they were introduced by the government in 1908). Lever Brothers was also one of the first companies to employ a full-time safety inspector and company doctor, and to provide respirators and a rota system for workers working in dusty conditions. Decades before it became a legal requirement Lever Brothers had introduced alarms and sprinklers in all their departments and had their own voluntary ambulance and fire brigade. The staff were also taken on day and weekend trips in Britain and in Europe.
William Lever built Port Sunlight model village for his workers, which included a planned landscape of houses with gardens, allotments, large open spaces and parks (ten years before Ebenezer Howard's plans for a Garden City), shops, a hospital, school, post office, sports facilities, church, dining halls, a public house, the Lady Lever art gallery, and a library. The children of Port Sunlight and Lever's junior staff were required to attend school and devote time to education (paid for by Lever Brothers) including languages, science, engineering, accountancy, maths and English literature, even though by law school was only compulsory up to the age of 10.
Lever was created a Baronet in 1911. In 1917 he was made a Lord and took the title of Lord Lever of Bolton-le-Moors. Finally in 1922 he was created Viscount Leverhulme (adding the surname of his wife Elizabeth Hulme who had died in 1913). He died at The Hill (his London home) on the 7th May 1925 shortly after returning from a world tour and inspection of his business interests.
Thornton Manor is believed to have been constructed in the c.1840s/50s, but was not lived in until 1863 when it was bought by the Forwood family. William Lever rented it in 1888 when it was still a relatively modest Victorian villa, as it was located close to his business at Port Sunlight. He bought the manor in 1891 and immediately started expanding and remodelling it as his largest and main residence (works that went on for the next 25 years). Thornton Manor formed an important part of the business of Lever Brothers as well as a family home, as Lever often worked at the house, held meetings there, and entertained staff at dinners, parties, and garden parties/fairs. Thornton Manor was officially given over to his son in 1919, although it remained as Lever's principal residence until his death.
The gatehouse was built in 1910 to the designs of James Lomax Simpson, who was a pupil of Grayson & Ould. Edward Ould was the architect of Wightwick Manor and was an expert on local black and white vernacular. Further timber framed buildings were planned around the courtyard and gatehouse, but the outbreak of WWI and the death of Lever's wife put an end to these plans.
The last Lord Leverhulme died in 2000 and the house, cottages, stabling, gardens and 125 acres of parkland were sold, although the remainder of the Thornton Manor Estate, including the village of Thornton Hough, was retained by the Leverhulme family. The gatehouse is now used as holiday accommodation.
Pevsner N & Hubbard E. 2003. 'The Buildings of England: Cheshire'. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Sotheby's. 2001. 'The Leverhulme Collection, Thornton Manor, Wirral, Merseyside. 27, 27, 28 June 2001. Volume 1'.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The gatehouse to Thornton Manor is designated at grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is an integral component of Viscount Leverhulme's extensive late C19/early C20 country estate of Thornton Manor, which retains its main house, stable and garage court, associated lodge and cottages, and gardens
* It was designed by the nationally recognised architect James Lomax Simpson, one of the principal architects behind Port Sunlight model village, and a pupil of Grayson & Ould
* It is an excellent example of the Vernacular Revival style with a striking and elaborate design, which forms a highly imposing entrance to the main house and front courtyard
* The level of decorative detailing to the external elevations is extremely high with the use of decorative timber framing to the first floor, carved timber bressumers, double chamfered mullion windows, an oriel window, decorative moulded lead rainwater goods, and a carved relief of Viscount Leverhulme's unique coat of arms
* The materials and craftsmanship employed are of a very high quality
* It is well preserved both externally and internally, and retains original interior features including panelled doors and walls, built-in cupboards, and porter's kiosk
* It shares an extremely strong visual and functional relationship with the main house, and also has additional group value with other listed buildings on the estate
Listing NGR: SJ3010581675
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.