Be Port Sunlight is an online hub containing local histories from Port Sunlight, an industrial village and conservation area in England’s north-west.

Be Port Sunlight was funded by Historic England as part of their Covid-19 Emergency Response funding. PSVT embarked on ‘A village in lockdown’ back in Autumn 2020 to better understand and document the impact of Covid-19 on the people and heritage of the village.

The Village

A picturesque village with more than 900 Grade II listed houses and public buildings, Port Sunlight was founded in 1888 by the industrialist William Lever as a self-contained community for his soap factory workers.

The village today is an immaculately preserved example of early town planning. A prototypical garden city, Port Sunlight’s manicured gardens and parklands offer abundant green space for the village’s residents and visitors, while cultural institutions like the Lady Lever Art Gallery and The Gladstone Theatre provide access to the arts.

With just 2,000 residents, Port Sunlight is home to a small but thriving community.

The Project

Be Port Sunlight is an archive of audio and visual documents which convey a sense of life in Port Sunlight during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

A series of themed podcasts present oral histories, while the Lockdown Collecting project provides an insight into the local lockdown experience through photographs and videos.

The pandemic has impacted life across the world in ways we could not have imagined and are yet to fully comprehend. Be Port Sunlight is a snapshot of the intimate and shared moments which occurred in one village during this time.

Port Sunlight Speaks

Following four themes that reflect the foundations of civic life in the village, this series of short podcasts features interviews with locals about their experiences of lockdown in Port Sunlight.

Produced by Rebecca Gaskell
Music by Sone Institute & Dollboy


The revival style design of the village’s houses and public buildings are described by the Heritage Conservation Officer for Port Sunlight Village Trust, while interviews with residents provide insights into how domestic lives in Port Sunlight changed during the pandemic.


Opened in 1922, the Lady Lever Art Gallery houses William Lever’s private collection of fine and decorative art. The Executive Director of Galleries & Collections Care at National Museums Liverpool discusses the gallery’s current research into the sources of Lever’s wealth, which was, in part, derived from palm oil plantations in what was then the Belgian Congo. The gallery is now actively investigating this, along with their partners Port Sunlight Village Trust and Unilever, and will reflect the outcomes of their research in their exhibitions, public programmes and collections.


A local tour guide explores William Lever’s economic views and how these shaped Port Sunlight. Interviews with a retired couple who run a local holiday let and the Port Sunlight Garden Centre manager give a sense of new and more traditional forms of work, and how the pandemic has affected the village’s economy.


Port Sunlight Village Trust’s Landscape Supervisor describes the immaculately maintained gardens that form an integral part of community life in Port Sunlight. In other interviews, a conscientious resident starts a local litter-picking group, and the River Park Ranger describes native wildlife on the site of the original Lever Brothers’ dock.

Be Port Sunlight Collecting Project

Be Port Sunlight Collecting Project invited Port Sunlight’s residents, businesses, groups and communities to share photographs and videos that represent their experiences during 2020 and 2021.
The pandemic redefined how we live and work, what we value, and how we interact with one another. My Port Sunlight Lockdown is a record of one community’s response to the events that have and will continue to shape our lives beyond 2020.
If you are a local resident and would like to contribute a photograph or video to our online hub, email [email protected] or call 0151 644 4800.

Photography by Scott Woolley