Third Viscount LeverhulmePhilip William Bryce Lever, 3rd Viscount Leverhulme – Chairman of Governors, 1949-1990

The 3rd Viscount Leverhulme continued the staunch support offered to the School by his father and grandfather before him, acting as Chairman of Governors for 40 years. His involvement in School life throughout that time was extensive, and the School continues to benefit from the wise counsel and leadership he provided throughout the latter-half of the last century.

The following tribute is taken from The Leverhulme Legacy, written by Eric Fairweather, the School Archivist.

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Philip William Bryce Lever, 3rd Viscount Leverhulme, was born at Bebington on the Wirral on 1 July 1915 and was the only surviving son of William Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme and his first wife Marion who died in 1973.

He was educated at Eton College before going to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read Modern Languages. His first job after graduation was at Sandringham where he worked for King George V’s estate manager until the outbreak of the Second World War when he joined the Cheshire Yeomanry, serving in Palestine. After the Regiment returned to Europe in 1944 he became a Major in command of No. 2 Squadron. In 1947 he was appointed Squadron Leader of C Squadron and held this post until 1949. On the death of The Fourth Duke of Westminster in 1967, Viscount Leverhulme was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment which he remained until 1981. He was Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire from 1949 to 1990

He married Margaret Ann Moon on 1 July 1937 and they were to have three children, all of whom were girls. His first daughter was the Hon. Susan Elizabeth Moon Lever who was born in 1938. Their second daughter, the Hon. Victoria Marion Ann Lever, was born in 1945 and has been Extra Lady-in-Waiting to HRH The Princess Royal since 1974. Their third daughter, the Hon. Lady (Margaret) Jane Lever, was born in 1947. Married to Sir Algernon Eustace Hugh Heber-Percy, Jane was a Governor of Bolton School from 1999 until 2008.

Philip Lever never had any ambitions to enter the family business and served only as an advisory director of the company. After the war he took over the management of his father’s estates. In 1949, when his father died, he inherited the title of Viscount Leverhulme and moved into Thornton Manor with his wife and three daughters. In the same year he also became Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire and Chairman of the Governors of Bolton School, following in his father’s footsteps. He was to remain Lord Lieutenant until 1990 which made him the longest serving Lord Lieutenant in the country and in this capacity he regularly entertained members of the Royal Family at his home.

The Viscount’s consuming interest, however, was horse racing and in the late sixties he started a stud at Thornton Manor. He was a friend of the Queen Mother with their common interest in horse racing probably helping to cement the relationship. The Queen Mother was a regular visitor and other members of the Royal Family would also visit. He was a welcoming host and would also entertain members of other royal families, heads of state, Prime Ministers and politicians, captains of industry and people of the arts and academic world. He served as Chairman of Chester Racecourse and as a senior steward of the Jockey Club. He was also a supporter of the Animal Health Trust, the veterinary research establishment at Lanwades Hall, near Newmarket and had given 25 years’ service when he retired as Chairman in 1989.

As evidence of his passion for horse racing, he announced at the Girls’ Division Speech day in 1978 that he had named a horse ‘Girls’ Division’. However, ‘to redress the balance in the stables,’ he said he had also named two other horses ‘Boys’ Division’ and ‘Bolton School’. On 29 May 1979 ‘Girls’ Division’ won her first race!

In 1980 the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme was elected Chancellor of Liverpool University. He had a long association with the University and chaired the 1956 appeal which made possible the construction of new halls of residence and extended games facilities. He remained Chancellor until 1993.

In 1988 he was appointed Knight of the Garter in recognition of his many contributions to public life.

He died in July 2001, shortly after his 85th birthday, and a memorial service was held for him at Chester Cathedral.

Connections with Bolton School

On October 18 1950 the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme and his wife made their first visit to the Girls’ Division. In her speech of welcome Miss Taylor, Chairman of the Girls’ Committee, spoke of the great interest which the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme’s father and grandfather had shown towards Bolton and the School, and she expressed the gratitude which all felt that Viscount Leverhulme had accepted the Chairmanship of the Governors.

Like his father and grandfather before him, the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme proved to be a staunch supporter of Bolton School, with an impressive attendance at Speech Day and Prize Distributions in both Divisions.

1951 marked the centenary of the birth of William Hesketh Lever and, on 23 November, the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme planted two copper beech trees in front of the School, one on the Boys’ side in memory of his grandfather, Lord Leverhulme, the other on the Girls’ side in memory of his father, the 2nd Viscount Leverhulme. There was also an exhibition of the life and work of Lord Leverhulme in the Great Hall, including a large scale model of Port Sunlight.

The School was still far from complete when he became Chairman in 1949 and it was during his time at the helm that the first Lord Leverhulme’s vision finally came to fruition. The first major building phase under his Chairmanship occurred in the 1950s with the Boys’ Dining Hall being opened in December 1954. By December 1956 the East Wing was nearing completion and the boys gradually moved in during 1957.

The final phase of the original vision was completed in the sixties. The Boys’ North Wing was ready in time for the 1964/65 academic year, but it was another year before the Girls’ North Wing was completed.

He was a committed supporter of the Open Door policy which enabled able children to enter Bolton School regardless of parental income. In the early 1970s when the Direct Grant Scheme was brought to an end, the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme played a key part in the bold decision to make Bolton School fully independent rather than enter the state system as a comprehensive school. An appeal raised £750,000 which was invested to fund bursaries in the two Divisions.

Later, in the early eighties, he also guided the Governing Body towards the decision to apply for the maximum number of Assisted Places under the new scheme set up by the Conservative Government. The scheme lasted for 21 years and gave many children the opportunity of an education they could not otherwise have afforded.

In 1970 he unveiled a commemorative a plaque, in honour of Lord Leverhulme, outside 16 Wood Street, the house in Bolton where his grandfather had been born. Mr. Marcus Tillotson, Vice-Chairman of the Governors, the Headmaster and the Headmistress were present at the ceremony, which was arranged by Bolton Civic Trust to honour one of the town’s most famous sons.

During the Easter term of 1975 the whole Girls’ Division joined together to celebrate his 25th year as Chairman of the Governors. A handsome book was compiled, which illustrated every stage of School life and to which every teacher and girl contributed at least a signature.

Speech Day 1980 was made memorable when the final words from the 3rd Viscount
Leverhulme were that he was making a donation to the Girls’ Division of a new Sports Pavilion. On Tuesday May 11th 1982, a year after the demolition of the old pavilion, he officially opened the splendid new ‘Leverhulme Pavilion’.

The 3rd Viscount Leverhulme retired as Chairman of Governors in 1990, after having served in that position for 40 years. His Chairmanship coincided with a turbulent period for national secondary education. From the 1944 Education Act onwards there had been a sequence of structural changes from the three-tier system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools, to comprehensive education and, later, the growth of technical colleges. He also guided the Governors through the transition from the Direct Grant system to full independence and the decision to partake in the Assisted Places scheme.

Despite no longer being Chairman he continued to be associated with the School in his capacity as a Trustee of the New Lever Trust.