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History of the Trust

A committed philanthropist throughout his life, when he died in 1925 Lord Leverhulme left a proportion of his holdings in Lever Brothers to provide ‘scholarships for… research and education’ - and so the Leverhulme Trust came into being

Born in 1851, William Hesketh Lever made his fortune through the manufacture and marketing of soap and cleaning products. In the space of only a few years his company Lever Brothers grew to become a household name, and its products, which included Sunlight Soap and Lux, were sold around the world. The title ‘Lord Leverhulme’ was conferred upon Lever in 1917 (‘Hulme’ being the maiden name of his wife, Elizabeth, who had died four years previously). 

A committed philanthropist from the beginning, on his death in 1925 Lord Leverhulme left a share of his holdings in his company to provide for specific trades charities, and to offer ‘scholarships for… research and education’. The Leverhulme Trust was established to undertake these charitable aims. In 1930, Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie to form Unilever – one of the world’s major multinational companies – and the shares held by the Leverhulme Trust became shares in Unilever PLC.

Unilever are funding independent research which will look at Leverhulme’s later business operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Solomon Islands. Recognising our shared legacy, the Leverhulme Trust will be engaging fully with this research and findings will be widely accessible.

William Hesketh Lever.
Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Unilever Archives.
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The Leverhulme Trust
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