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Christ Church, Port Sunlight
 

Christ Church, Church Drive, Port Sunshine, Wirral, by William & Segar Owen, 1902-04. Red Cheshire sandstone ashlar with stone tiling. The church was a gift to the village from its founder, William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme. Nearly all the buildings in Port Sunlight are Grade 2 listed buildings, including the Lady Lever Art Gallery, but this one is Grade II*.  Some reasons for this may be the element of drama in the long nave and chancel, both the same height and stoutly buttressed; the "forceful tower" with its fine traceried parapets; and the pinnacles and "dense" window tracery (Hartwell et al. 535). But perhaps the really outstanding feature is the loggia at the west end, housing Lord Leverhulme and his wife's tombs.

 

(a) Plan of the church given in Davison, Plate 30.  (b) Entrance to the church at the gabled south-west porch. (c) The west end, with the loggia or narthex for the Leverhulme tombs.

Another reason for the high listing would be the context of the church in this very special model village, something of the atmosphere of which is seen in the sketch above left, with villagers in an absolutely rural setting, looking not at all like members of a factory-workers' community. Technically speaking, the church may be in an "angular Edwardian Perpendicular style" (Curl 174), but in general outline it looks rather like an old village church — exactly the impression Leverhulme must have wanted to create.  It suited him in another way, too. It was built as a nondenominational establishment. It had a Wesleyan minister at the time it was being erected, and was later vested in the Congregational Union of England and Wales — Leverhulme himself was a Congregationalist. It is now a United Reformed Church (see Hubbard and Shippobottom 38).  The picture on the right shows the richly carved walls. In the loggia, which is even more richly carved, can be seen the Leverhulmes' bronze effigies and a touching bronze sculptural group by Sir William Goscombe John.

Interior of Christ Church, Port Sunlight

Interior of Christ Church, Port Sunlight.

The arcaded interior has tie-beam roofs, iron candelabra on stands, and the particularly fine organ, its pipes glimpsed on the left of the chancel, and "believed to be the only extant large instrument by [Henry] Willis II in its original condition, and ... still fully pneumatic" (listing text). Two of the windows are by the Hungarian stained-glass artist Ervin Bossanyi (1891-1975), much later than the Victorian period, of course (1950).  This is the only church in Port Sunlight. As well as expressing its founder's "Nonconformity and undemanding theology," it shows his "love of medieval churches and beauty and richness in architecture, and a desire for beauty and dignity in worship and liturgy" (Hubbard and Shippobottom 38).

Related Material

References

"Christ Church, Wirral". British Listed Buildings. Web. 7 September 2013.

Curl, James Stevens. Victorian Architecture. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1990. Print.

Davison, T. Raffles. Port Sunlight: A Record of its Artistic & Pictorial Aspect. London: Batsford, 1916. Internet Archive. Web. 3 September 2013.

Hartwell, Clare, Matthew Hyde, Edward Hubbard and Nikolaus Pevsner. Cheshire. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2011.

 
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Last modified 7 September 2013