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The Lever Family and Royalty

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Philip Britton, Head of Foundation at Bolton School, delivered assemblies earlier this week, considering the interconnectedness, over the years, of the Royal Family and the Lever Family. Ordinarily at this time of year, the Head reflects on an aspect of Lord Leverhulme’s life, the benefactor who re-endowed the School in 1915 and whose birthday falls on 19 September. 

Mr Britton opened his talk by focusing on the Queen’s life of duty and service and how, over 70 years, she shaped the whole nation’s life whilst offering longevity and a sense of continuity. In many ways, Mr Britton pointed out, the Leverhulme family had done much the same for Bolton School. 

The Head told how Lord Leverhulme would have met Kings Edward and George on several occasions in the early twentieth century and not just when he became a Baronet and a Viscount. He would not, however, have met Queen Victoria because, during most of her reign, William Hesketh Lever was a grocer’s boy in Bolton. It was, Mr Britton explained, his development of his soap empire and supply chains which enabled Lever to become a successful businessman and philanthropist. The Head informed both assemblies that Lever served as High Sheriff of Lancashire and was to go on to become the first Viscount Leverhulme. He also reflected on his time as an MP for the Wirral from 1906-09 and, as a Liberal, his early campaigning for the introduction of old age pensions and equality for women. 

Mr Britton recalled that one time Leverhulme did meet King George V was in the run up to war. He met with the King and the Earl of Derby to discuss supply chains, one of Leverhulme’s areas of expertise, at Knowsley Hall. Sixth Form readers Henry Nuttall and Hannah McKee, assisting the Head, told of Leverhulme returning from Knowsley in 1913 to see a bright light on Rivington Pike, only to find it was his own bungalow on fire, set alight by suffragette Edith Rigby! 

The audience learnt how the first Viscount died in the 1920s and was succeeded by his son, William, the second Viscount, who became Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Cheshire. These roles, Mr Britton explained, would have given him frequent meetings with the monarch. 

Connections with royalty were further deepened by the third Viscount, who inherited the title in the late 1940s. Prior to that, Mr Britton recounted how he had read for an MFL degree at Cambridge and taken on the role of Estate Manager at Sandringham. When he became Viscount, he went on to become Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire, a post he held for 41 years. He would have met the Queen on several occasions and there is a photo of him (above) showing her around the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 1957. The Head told how the third Viscount was also Chair of Governors at Bolton School and how he financed the Leverhulme Pavilion, which is now 40 years old. The Viscount shared a passion for horse racing with the Queen and named three of his horses after Bolton School – one was called Boys’ Division, one was called Girls’ Division and the other Bolton School. He had three daughters but no male offspring so, upon his death, the title went into abeyance. His second daughter was an extra lady in waiting to the Princess Royal. His third daughter, Jane Heber-Percy, whose husband was Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, would have met the Queen on several occasions. Mr Britton recalled Mrs Heber-Percy visiting the school to dedicate the new flagpole from which the Union Jack is currently flying at half-mast. 

Mr Britton concluded his assembly by stressing how structure and continuity matter and how they have allowed us to seamlessly change our monarch and Prime Minister in the same week. He then read an excerpt from a prayer in praise of the new monarch and agreed by all major religions before leading both assemblies with the first singing of ‘God Save the King’ in the respective schools since 1952! 

Watch Mr Britton's assembly in full.

On Friday of last week, the Head of Boys’ Division, Nic Ford, and Head of Girls’ Division, Lynne Kyle, led whole school assemblies that reflected on the Queen’s life, her inspirational leadership and service to the country.

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