Sunday, July 19, 2015


This is an advert from The Graphic of November 18, 1899. It goes on to say, "SUNLIGHT SOAP is undoubtedly THE BEST SOAP in the World for all-round use." It was the product that set William Lever, the son of a Bolton wholesale grocer, on his way to amassing a personal fortune. His first purchase of paintings which could be used to market his bars of soap led to him becoming a great collector. Read about him here.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight is a wonderful place. Lever built it to house his extensive collection of art and other items, and named it after his wife, Elizabeth. It was opened in 1922, see here.

It was one of these places that had been on my 'must visit' list for a while, and it was duly ticked off yesterday. But not entirely. So interesting and enjoyable was my day, that I hope I will be able to return, particularly to see the South Galleries which are currently under restoration.

The main hall.

I took advantage of an introductory tour, and I'm so glad I did. This was our 'visitor host' Cliff, who was just brilliant. Full marks to him. He's standing beside 'The Scapegoat' painted by William Holman Hunt in 1854. This painting was purchased by Lever in 1923.

The gallery's paintings can be seen here.

I'm not usually a big fan of old furniture, but Cliff changed that with his explanations of many of the items on show.

Port Sunlight village is a fascinating place, and it was interesting to walk through it. Lever built it as a place for his workers to live. More info here.

Formal gardens are a rarity these days. I enjoyed seeing the large blocks of roses of one variety, with a name label, once a common feature in public parks. I just wanted to get my secateurs out and start dead heading!

One of the most impressive, and moving, war memorials in the UK is this one on Port Sunlight. The full story is here.

I had just one other stop to make on my way home from Port Sunlight ...

When I was last in Birkenhead I visited the transport museum, see here, but on that day no trams were running on the short stretch of track from the museum to the Pier Head. I had better success yesterday. What a sight!

Dating from 1931-2, the history of this tram is here.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Manchester's MOSI

I had a splendid visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester yesterday.

Manchester is of course 'Cottonopolis' and I enjoyed learning the various stages by which raw cotton is turned into finished cloth. Many of the machines were shown working by a talented guide, or an 'Explainer', as the museum calls these members of staff.

A special exhibition that I wanted to see was the Wellcome Image Awards 2015.

This was just one of twenty award-winning images 'that show the world's biomedical wonders in minute detail'. The explanation is here. As a sometime biochemist, I was blown away by what this represents. The image was created using a technique called computational molecular phenotyping and shows how metabolism can vary between cells in the same organ at a given point in time. Gets my vote!

The Wellcome exhibition was in a room in this building. The Liverpool Road Station was the Manchester terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world's first purpose-built passenger and goods railway. The original coach offices (passenger station, above), warehouse and intervening viaduct survive, making this the oldest station in the world! See here.

My favourite part of the museum though, as you will not be surprised, was the Power Hall. This locomotive was built in 1911 for the North Western Railway of India. It pulled express mail trains until 1947. It was then used by Pakistan Railways and latterly converted to be oil-fired. Why is it at MOSI? It was made locally by Vulcan Foundries, Newton-le-Willows.

This is 'Ariadne', an EM2 (Class 77) locomotive, built around 1954 by the British Rail locomotive works at Gorton, Manchester, to haul passenger trains between Manchester and Sheffield in the late 1950s and 60s. It was sold to the Netherlands Railway where it saw use until 1986.

Star exhibit for me was this 'Beyer-Garratt' locomotive, built by Beyer, Peacock and Co, in 1930, at Gorton. No 2352 hauled South African passenger trains out of Durban from 1931 to 1938, and then coal up until 1972. All about Garratts here.

In the cab of the Garratt.

The old and the new, the Beetham Tower in the background. Manchester is quite a city, and I hope to explore more of it another day.

I got stopped in my tracks when I stumbled over this exhibit in the Connecting Manchester gallery, on the second floor of the 1830 Warehouse. It's a 1970s HiFi system, built up from a variety of separate components, as one did back then if you were something of a HiFi snob. That's a Pioneer turntable, and a pair of Wharfedale speakers. Now I owned these (with a Technics amplifier) as my music machine, in the days when one listened to LP vinyl records. The system lasted me well into the 1990s. Antiques now, perhaps, but seeing these items as a museum exhibit made me feel very, very old! Still, in searching for some HiFi nostalgia, I did find the Vintage Knob website, here.

Photos © Skip Cottage