Our walking group now has a new name. With the lifting of restrictions (temporarily as it turns out) we were able to meet again on the 12th December and decided to venture a little further this time. We met up in Chilbolton and all turned up in red cars – so one of our members decided we should now be called The Scarlet Ladies! Whether we will have more fun on our rambles in future (when permitted to do so again of course), but we did enjoy meeting up this month and walking around the village – a mixture of the common, muddy footpaths and on village roads.
19 of us logged on for our meeting this month via Zoom, some of us were wearing festive jumpers or earrings or headgear and some of us had a glass in our hands so we could still feel we were having a party. Our speaker was Janet Shell, who has written a book about Port Sunlight and the four generations of her family who have lived there – including herself in the 1960s and 70s.
The village was the creation of the Lever Brothers – they were looking for a new site for their factory in the late 19th Century and also wanted to create good living conditions for their employees as well as offering social and leisure facilities for them. Janet weaved the history of the village, located on The Wirral, with that of her family. Her great-grandparents were the first generation of her family to live there, moving into Bridge Street in 1912. The village evolved over the years and, although not part of the original plans, with the outbreak of the First World War, a War Memorial was eventually constructed and with the early death of the wife of Lord Leverhulme a now renowned Art Gallery was commissioned in her memory.
Although Janet started out wanting to be a teacher, she had always loved music and singing and appearing in amateur dramatic productions – Port Sunlight even had its own theatre. So, when she was offered a place at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama but was struggling to find the funds needed, she suddenly remembered her roots. 15 years earlier she had had a solo turn in a show in front of the current Lord Leverhulme in Port Sunlight, so she wrote to him to see if he would sponsor her at all. She was delighted when he said yes and agreed to pay her annual fees. She feels she owes her successful music career, she is a prize winning mezzo soprano and has sung all over the world, to her good fortune of being brought up in Port Sunlight.
Her family moved away in the 1970s, but Janet has fond memories of living there and has returned over the years to do her research. It is now a tourist destination – a shame it is just too far for Abbotts Ann WI to consider it as a summer outing.
Our President Julia thanked Janet for her PowerPoint presentation, which she had shared with us on our screens, and went on to wish our members a Happy Christmas despite all the restrictions.
Our next meeting (via Zoom again) will be on 28th January 2021. Our speaker is Suzanne Kemp and her subject is “The New Forest Pony – More than Meets the Eye”. Please look out for the invitation to join this meeting.