In 1899 William Hesketh Lever purchased Hall i’ th’ Wood. He paid for the renovations of the building and presented the Hall to Bolton Corporation in 1902. The museum was opened as a memorial to Samuel Crompton and to the contribution he made to Bolton and the textile industry.
William Hesketh Lever was born in Bolton in 1851. At 15 William joined the family wholesale grocery firm and rose rapidly in the firm. He started as an assistant wrapping soap and went on to become a commercial traveller and by the age of 21 he was made partner. Now a man with prospects, he married Elizabeth (whom he had met at school) in 1874. Lever employed his marketing flair to expand the business, patenting the ‘Sunlight’ name for a range of soaps that the company now manufactured.
In 1888 he created Port Sunlight in Liverpool, an industrial village constructed exclusively for employees of Lever Brothers and those closely connected to the firm. In the Belgian Congo he created palm oil plantations to ensure an exclusive supply of raw materials. Unfortunately, one scheme he was involved in was a doomed bid to rejuvenate the economy of the Outer Hebrides by investing his own money in the fishing industry.
Lever had a brief spell in politics as Liberal MP for the Wirral and was Mayor of Bolton from 1918-19 and was made Lord Leverhulme. He died in 1925 and by this date the Lever Brothers controlled a diverse, multi-national commercial empire.