Bromborough Pool Village is one of the most interesting of the communities established by entrepreneurs for their workers, although it is less well-known than Port Sunlight, which lies only 2 km to the north.
William Wilson (b 1772) belonged to the Scottish family who established the Wilsontown ironworks. When the ironworks closed in 1812 he went to London where he traded with Moscow and St Petersburg. In 1830 he joined one Benjamin Lancaster in a candle-making company which they named after a fictitious Edward Price, with a factory at Vauxhall. Developments in chemistry enabled the costs of candles to be reduced and their lighting efficiency increased, and the abolition of the Candle Tax in 1831 increased opportunities for manufacturers. While tallow chandlers in market towns and mining communities made tallow candles by dipping, enterprising manufacturers developed technology for large-scale production in moulds. The research of the French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreuil (1886-1889) showed that the solid and liquid components of fats could be separated mixing with a strong alkali. This process, ‘saponification’ was already used by soap manufacturers, but George, son of William Wilson, developed it by distilling fats using high pressure steam and vacuum pans. The company first prospered by distilling coconut oil from Ceylon, but by 1840 used waste products including skin and bone fat, fish oils and discarded greases. Later the company employed palm oil from West Africa, and paraffin wax made from petroleum discovered in Burma in 1854, and subsequently supplied from the United States after the first oil well was sunk in Pennsylvania in 1859. Wilson was adept at marketing, and in 1840 sold thousands of candles to be displayed in front room windows on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s coronation. The firm became a joint stock company, Price’s Patent Candle Co in 1847. In 1853 Wilson’s sons, George, the chemist, and James, who like his father was an enthusiastic Evangelical, established a factory with an adjacent company village at Bromborough on the Wirral peninsula, conveniently situated for the supply of palm oil imported into Liverpool.
By 1861 more than 90 houses had been erected, the majority terraced dwellings, with living room, kitchen and scullery on the ground floor, and three bedrooms above. Each had a front and a rear garden and they were generously spaced around a cricket field and a bowling green, and a school in the Italianate style was built in 1858. More than 170 men worked at the factory in 1861, 50 of whom were natives of London, mostly skilled candlemakers and craftsmen from Battersea and Lambeth. Apart from the quality of the housing, which was outstandingly high for the period, the most interesting feature of the community was the accommodation of 21 young candlemakers aged between 15 and 19 in part of the seventeenth century mansion called Court House, under the tutelage of Edmund Hampson, curate of Bromborough and Chaplain to the company. Most of the housing of the 1850s remains, and Bromborough Pool Village has been a Conservation Area since 1986.